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The book of Revelation has one primary and profoundly simple theme or big idea: God wins! That is why I have entitled this series of messages on Revelation: The Triumph of the Lamb. This remarkable and challenging book explains to us how God rescues and redeems his people, defeats Satan, routs evil, transforms creation, and eventually and eternally dwells among us forever.Read More

Perhaps the single greatest controversy surrounding Revelation and the most important issue when it comes to interpreting the book, is the question of its structure. Many, perhaps most, evangelicals read Revelation as if it is describing a short period of time that is still in the future. Those who embrace what may be called the futurist view of the book most often will argue that what we have in Revelation 6-19 is a description of events that will take place in the future in a period of seven years they call The Great Tribulation.Read More

Often when we speak of those who suffer from persecution and martyrdom we hear only words and the impact on our hearts is minimal. So I want to begin this morning by putting a face with a name. His name is Sharoon Masih and he was sixteen-years old. I say “was” because three weeks ago, on August 27, during only his fourth day at school, he was savagely beaten to death inside his school by his classmates. Read More

There are several good reasons why the Apostle Paul described the Second Coming of Jesus Christ as our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). It is a “blessed hope” because it will mean the end of all sin and suffering in our lives. No more battles with temptation. No more feelings of guilt when we fail. No more diagnoses of cancer or heart disease or arthritis. No more sadness upon hearing of the death of a loved one. No more funerals. No more anger or resentment or unforgiveness or lust or greed. No more jealous rivalries. No more division between Christians. No more friction between husbands and wives or parents and their children.Read More

As you know, here at Bridgeway we love to sing the song, King of My Heart. The way in which it declares that God is good is both biblical and reassuring. But there is a line in the chorus that often times sticks in the throat of some believers. It goes something like this: “You’re never gonna’ let, never gonna’ let me down.” Some of you struggle to sing this because deep down inside you don’t really believe it. You think there have been times in your life when God really did let you down, and you are afraid there may well be more instances in the future when he’ll do it again.Read More

Sam StormsBridgeway ChurchRevelation #19Download PDF When we’ve been there Ten Thousand Years! Revelation 7:9-17 It has always struck me as bizarre that some Christians, or at least those who profess to be Christians, don’t think it is spiritually beneficial or helpful or encouraging to think about heaven. Many of them have bought into the old saying that such people are “so heavenly minded they’re of no earthly good.” Yes, I have known a...Read More

Why do people struggle with the book of Revelation? By that I don’t mean why do people have differing interpretations of what will happen when Christ returns, or why do people disagree on the identity of the Beast and False Prophet. The struggle I have in mind is the difficulty people have with the unrelenting display of divine wrath and judgment on the world of unbelievers and idolaters. In other words, the single greatest problem people have with this book isn’t its symbolism or its view of history or the meaning of the number 666. The single greatest challenge that people face when reading Revelation is the extent and intensity of the judgments that unbelievers and idolaters endure.Read More

It’s not easy today to remain hopeful and encouraged and confident about the future of our society and the world as a whole. Things are a mess. For every one step forward it seems like we take two steps backwards. For every victory that is won for truth and morality and the Christian faith, it seems as if there is a multitude of defeats. In his excellent commentary on Revelation Dennis Johnson puts it this way:Read More

What are the prospects for the church of Jesus Christ all across the earth, as we await the second coming of our Lord? What I mean by that is, what should we expect in terms of our relationship to the broader culture and the world of unbelievers as a whole? What should we do as we look to the end of human history and the establishment of God’s eternal kingdom?Read More

[Having described the seven trumpet judgments, but before explaining the seven bowls, John inserts three parenthetical chapters (Revelation 12-14). The purpose of chapter 12 is to provide us with a deeper perspective on the spiritual conflict between the world and the church. At the heart of its message is that, although Satan is the principal source of the persecution of God’s people, he has been decisively defeated by Christ, a victory in which we now share even in the midst of suffering and martyrdom.]Read More

I’m guaranteed of one thing when it comes to this sermon. Most, if not all of you, will pay very close attention. The reason is that there is hardly a more fascinating and controversial topic in eschatology than that of the Antichrist. Is the Antichrist the same as the Beast of Revelation? Is there more than one Antichrist? Is he a figure of past history or the future? Is the Antichrist a person or a power or a movement, or some combination of all? These and other questions will arise as we try to make sense of this concept.Read More

In his final two letters written not long before he was beheaded in Rome under orders from the Emperor Nero, the Apostle Paul was clearly energized and concerned about the emergence of false teaching that he obviously believed would pose a great threat to the health and well-being of the church.Read More

Let me say this up front and get it out of the way. I really don’t want to preach on this text. It isn’t because I don’t understand it. I do. In fact, it is precisely because I understand what it is saying that makes me reluctant to preach on it. Neither is my reluctance to preach on it because I don’t believe it is true. I do believe it is true. I do believe that there is a place called hell and that people are going there. Read More

Last week we immersed ourselves in what is undeniably one of the most emotionally challenging passages in all the Bible. The portrayal in Revelation 14:9-11 of eternal punishment in hell is terrifying and sobering. Today we come to a passage that is only slightly less foreboding. Read More

Theories about the end of the world have become big business in recent years. Certain environmentalists tell us that unrestrained global warming will bring about the end of the world as we know it. Certain politicians tell us that the world will likely end in a nuclear conflagration, perhaps instigated by North Korea or Russia. Certain astronomers tell us that one day a massive meteorite will break through our atmosphere and crash headlong into the earth, setting in motion a series of climate changes and floods and earthquakes that will mark the world’s end. Then, of course, we’ve got hundreds of movies coming out of Hollywood that are making a fortune by promoting the idea that in some for or other aliens from a distant galaxy will invade us and either colonize or cannibalize our world, bringing an end to life on this planet.Read More

Today I want to help you make sense of the world in which we live. In particular, I have in mind the multiple ways in which our society and every society on earth conspires to oppose and oppress the kingdom of Jesus Christ. I imagine there are any number of ways in which people try to make sense of what is happening around the globe, but I want to do my best to account for it in terms derived from the book of Revelation.Read More

In Revelation 17:1 John was promised that he would be shown “the judgment of the great prostitute”. Although he was given a brief glimpse in 17:16, the full story is now told in chapter 18.Read More

Why does Bridgeway exist? We exist to exalt Christ in the City. We do many things. We preach Scripture. We pray. We evangelize and go on mission trips. We gather in small groups and sing. We serve one another and love one another and sacrifice for one another. We strive for ethnic reconciliation. We strive for biblical justice. But why do we do these things? We do them because of the reason why we exist. We exist to make Christ known, to exalt his beauty and majesty, to act and speak and live in such a way that Christ is seen as preeminent and glorious and worthy of all our heart’s affection and joy and delight.Read More

I hope . . . I hope that all of you here today will feel warmly welcomed and be encouraged by the people at Bridgeway. Read More

In February of 2015, 20 Egyptian Christians were lined up on a beach in Libya, wearing orange jumpsuits. After refusing to renounce their faith in Christ, they were forced to kneel down. One by one, they were each savagely beheaded. It wasn’t until three years later, in 2018, that their bodies were returned to Egypt to be properly buried. Although their physical bodies suffered great indignity, their souls immediately entered into the presence of their Lord Jesus Christ where, as priests of God, they joined with him in ruling and reigning over the affairs of heaven and earth. And when Christ returns to this earth at the end of human history, they will accompany him and be among the first to receive their glorified and resurrected bodies.Read More

Not everyone thinks it helpful to focus on the future. They’ve bought into the old saying that people who do are “so heavenly minded they’re of no earthly good.” On the contrary, I’m persuaded that we will never be of much use in this life until we’ve developed a healthy obsession with the next. Therefore, we must take steps to cultivate and intensify in our souls an ache for the beauty of the age to come. And that is precisely my aim as we turn our attention to Revelation 21-22.Read More

Several years ago Ann and I, together with our two daughters, were driving back home from a short vacation in Estes Park, Colorado. I can’t recall precisely where we were, but I think it was somewhere near the Colorado / Kansas border. We could see ahead of us that storm clouds were forming and sure enough it began to rain quite heavily. After the rain ended, we could see directly in front of us the most beautiful and majestic rainbow that we had ever seen. Now, I’ve seen a lot of rainbows, but I had never seen anything quite like this one. Read More

So, there I was sitting at my desk a few days ago, staring at Revelation 22:4 and the incredible declaration by John that in the new earth we “will see his [God’s] face.” It sounds beyond belief. We will see God’s face! What does that mean? Later that day, during a short break, I logged on to a popular internet news site and saw the headline of an article that had just been posted. The title of the article was: What does God look like? The sub-title that followed said: “Liberals and Conservatives have different ideas.” Yes, I was sufficiently curious that I read the article, written by a man named Mark Price. The study was paid for with grants from the Templeton Foundation and National Science Foundation. Read More

We began our study of the book of Revelation on April 23rd of last year. Today is our final week in this incredibly challenging yet remarkably glorious book of the Bible. We have seen and heard and learned much, but here are the ten primary themes or points of emphasis in Revelation that have most greatly impacted me.Read More

Picture yourself in the most painful situation imaginable. Your finances are in a shambles, your health is deteriorating daily, and you are all alone. No one seems to care how you feel. You have a splitting headache, the house is an unmitigated mess, and tomorrow has all the signs of being worse than today . . . and the telephone rings. Sure enough, it’s that one person in your life who never calls or seems to care until they need something from you. And today, of all days, you’re in no condition to give. How would you react?Read More

If someone were to ask you what it is about Christianity that makes it unique among the many world religions, how would you answer them? What is it about the Christian faith that sets it apart and in doing so helps to confirm its truthfulness? What is it about Christianity that makes it so appealingRead More

You may not be familiar with the name Tertullian. I don’t of anyone who has named their child after him. Tertullian lived and ministered in the early years of the third century a.d. He was one of the greatest of the early church fathers and was actually the first man to use the word “Trinity” to describe the nature of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He lived and wrote at a time when opposition to Christianity and the Church was intensifying. Although Tertullian was an apologist, which is to say he devoted himself to defining and defending the Christian faith against its critics, he was quick to point out that it wasn’t any particular theological or philosophical argument that would ultimately persuade pagans of the truth about Jesus. Rather it was the seemingly inexplicable love that Christians had one for another that initially baffled and finally captivated non-Christians. In one memorable statement, Tertullian said this:Read More

Today is the second message in our new series in John 13-17 that we are calling, Last Words. That is to say, we are looking at what has also been called The Farewell Discourse of Jesus, the concluding words of instruction and encouragement that Jesus gave to his disciples on the night on which he was betrayed by Judas Iscariot. Some have referred to these five chapters as The Upper Room Discourse because that is where they gathered to celebrate the last supper. Read More

In this passage James envisions a believer intervening in the life of another, wayward, believer. The result is that you will “save his soul from death” and will “cover a multitude of sins.” Does this mean there is the potential for a Christian to sin so severely that if someone doesn’t intervene to restore him/her that this person might “lose” their soul to “death,” i.e., lose their salvation? No. Several points need to be made.Read More

“At the heart of why people disbelieve and believe in God, of why people decline and grow in character, of how God becomes less real and more real to us – is suffering” Read More

Supposing, just for the sake of illustration, that you come across an envelope in which there is a lengthy letter. It doesn’t belong to you but you are determined that it be delivered to its rightful destination. More than likely the first order of business would be to examine the front of the envelope to discover the individual or individuals to whom the letter is addressed. But to your dismay, there are no names there. To complicate matters, there is no address on the envelope. No city is mentioned, no state, no zip code, no country. You are left without a hint as to who might be the intended recipient of this letter.Read More

Last week in our inaugural study in the book of James I briefly suggested that the primary theme of this epistle is that Christianity is not just a body of doctrines to believe but also a life to be pursued in the power of a living faith. In other words, James, perhaps more so than any other NT book, calls on us to put into practice on a daily basis what we profess to believe. In fact, James will go so far as to say that a work-less faith is a worth-less faith. In true, genuine Christianity, that experience of the soul that we call “faith” is alive and energetic and fruitful and productive. When we get to chapter two James will argue that whereas faith alone justifies us in the sight of God, such faith is never alone. It is always accompanied by or issues in the fruit of the Holy Spirit or obedience.Read More

If you’ve ever wondered why Bridgeway Church exists, it isn’t so that those who don’t play golf might have something to occupy their time on a Sunday morning. Our mission statement is clear and to the point: We exist to exalt Christ in the City, through Gospel-centered Worship, Discipleship, Community, and Mission. But why? Why is it our individual and collective mission to exalt Christ? Why is it that we don’t make it our primary collective aim to promote brotherly love or compassion or economic justice or peace? After all, those are all excellent and much-needed virtues. What makes Jesus Christ so special that he should be elevated as preeminent in our thoughts, our hearts, our activities, and our energy as a local church? Read More

My dad was a banker for most of his professional working life. He was also a remarkable judge of character. I think this came from at least two sources. One was certainly the Holy Spirit. In other words, I think God uniquely gifted my dad with powers of discernment. He could see through the false fronts that people put up and was remarkably accurate when it came to looking beyond and behind actions to the motivation in people’s hearts.Read More

When we began our series in the book of Hebrews I mentioned several things about which we remain in ignorance. For example, we don’t know who wrote the book or when it was composed or where the author was located or who the people were to whom it was addressed. However, I think we can reasonably conclude one thing about the people who received this letter. Whatever else we may not know about them, I’m quite confident that they had never seen the Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life! Yes, I know, they didn’t have movies in the first century; but let me make my point anyway.Read More

Jesus is better, or so the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews would have us believe. As good and great as was everything that preceded him during the time of the Old Covenant under Moses, Jesus is better. Jesus is immeasurably superior to anything your heart can conceive or your mind can imagine. Jesus Christ is God’s full and final revelation to the world of what is good and true and beautiful and eternal. He is the one who by God’s decree will inherit everything. He did, after all, create everything. He is the radiant effulgence of God’s glory and the exact, precise expression and embodiment of what God is like. He bears up and carries along by his powerful word the whole of the universe so that what God has ordained to come to pass will in fact come to pass. By the sacrifice of himself on the cross he cleansed us from the defilement and stain of our sin and then sat down at the right hand of God on high. Read More

Now here’s a question for you, and yes it does have a purpose and it does have a direct relation to our passage this morning. Read More

Let me come straight to the point. Our world, and sadly that often times includes the professing Christian church, is, contrary to James’ counsel, slow to hear, quick to speak, and has a hair trigger when it comes to anger. You can almost hear people justifying each of these:Read More

[“The introductory formula [in v. 6a] is interesting. At first glance the wording seems cavalier, ‘But one has somewhere testified.’ The author is not betraying ignorance, as if he doesn’t know the text which he cites. The letter as a whole demonstrates that he is sophisticated and knowledgeable in his use of the OT. These are not the words of an uneducated novice. Hebrews doesn’t focus on the person who uttered the words or the exact place where they are found. The author wants us to pay heed to the OT scripture as testimony . . ., as the word spoken by God, and hence the human author remains unnamed” (Tom Schreiner).]Read More

My guess is that the majority of people here today have at one time or another throughout their educational experience audited a class or course, whether in high school or more likely in college. I certainly have. I loved the courses I audited. After I had graduated from Dallas Seminary in 1977 I returned a couple of years later and audited beginning Hebrew which was being taught by my good friend Jack Deere. Read More

Let me be entirely honest with you this morning. My guess is that most of you think I never have doubts about my faith in Christ or that everything in Christianity makes perfectly good sense to me. Quite honestly, that’s not true. I often find myself asking why God did what he has done. What reason did he have for doing it this way and not that way? On occasion, to be honest, it doesn’t strike me as being the best or most efficient way of doing things. On occasion, I say to myself, and to God, “That doesn’t make sense to me. It seems really odd that this is how you have chosen to go about achieving your ultimate glory in creation and redemption.”Read More

Last week our time in this passage was devoted to exploring what it means to say that God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, became a human being in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, and how he, by dying and rising from the grave, was able to defeat and destroy Satan and to deliver men and women from the fear of death by which Satan kept them enslaved.Read More

Today, traditionally known as Easter Sunday, more biblically known as Resurrection Sunday, is all about one theme and one theme only: Jesus of Nazareth, the God-man, following a sinless and altogether virtuous and obedient life, died a substitutionary and altogether sufficient and saving death, and then rose again to a new life in a glorified but still human body.Read More

All of us know that some sins are more conspicuous and overt than others. Public drunkenness, for example, or profane speech are readily identifiable. It’s obvious to even the casual observer if someone is intoxicated. The same is true of obscene or profane speech. If you have eyes and ears you can know instantly whether such sins are being committed.Read More

I had an interesting experience in studying this passage in Hebrews 3 and in my preparation for this message. I got massively distracted! But in a good way! And I hope you will be happy and pleased that I was. So let me explain. Read More

There simply is no more eternally important question that any man or woman can ask and then answer than this: “How might I, a hell-deserving sinner, be reconciled to God and made acceptable in his sight?” Or we might pose the question in yet another way: “How might I, a man/woman who is undeniably unrighteous and thus deserving of eternal judgment, be made righteous in the sight of God?” Other questions might feel more pressing or more practical, but rest assured that nothing else in all of life matters much in comparison with the issue of how we can be made right with God and thus assured of eternal life in his presence.Read More

’d be curious to know what many of you think about your salvation and what God has done through Christ to reconcile you to himself. My guess is that most Christians today would respond by talking of personal faith in Jesus and repentance from sin, of being forgiven and becoming a child of God. A few of you would mention what it means to be justified or declared righteous in the sight of God through faith alone in Christ alone. And of course, all these things are true and wonderful. Don’t think for a moment that I’m not thankful for everything God has done for me in and through Jesus.Read More

I’m sorry for having to begin on something of a downer, but I want to draw your attention today to the many ways that human beings have distorted some of the most precious of God’s gifts to us.Read More

Back in Hebrews 2:4 our author encouraged us not to neglect this “great salvation” that we have in Jesus Christ. Do you know why your salvation is great? Do you think often of it? Have you exerted the mental and spiritual energy to meditate on the multi-faceted, multi-dimensional nature of what it means to be “saved” from sin and death and condemnation? How much time have you given to exploring the multitude of blessings that comes with being a child of God? Read More

I think all of you are familiar with the oft-heard statement that Christians are people who are “in” the world but not “of” the world. There isn’t a specific biblical text that says it in precisely those terms, but James 4:4 does describe followers of Jesus as people who should avoid developing a “friendship with the world.” In fact, James says that to be a “friend” of the world is to be at “enmity with God” (James 4:4b). The apostle John exhorts Christians, “do not love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2:15a). Read More

Today, in our study of these two verses in Hebrews 4, you are going to hear something about Bridgeway Church and our philosophy of ministry that you may never have seriously considered before. You are also going to learn something about me, although I trust that those of you who’ve been here for a while already are aware of what I will say. You who are new to our fellowship likewise need to know what drives me and accounts for what I do on a Sunday morning and the way that I do it. Simply put, you will hear today what we believe about the Bible and how it governs all we do.Read More

I don’t like oversimplification. I don’t typically give much credence to those who try to reduce complex problems to a single cause. But I’m going to make an exception to that this morning. And I’m making an exception because James does. Or I should say, God does through the writing of James. Read More

Allow me to set the stage, so to speak, for what we read here in Hebrews 4:14-16, especially v. 16 on which we will focus most of our attention. Read More

There is a radio commercial that I hear several times a week here in OKC. If you don’t listen regularly to sports talk radio you probably aren’t aware of it. Quite honestly, I can’t even tell you what product or service is being promoted, but I do vividly remember the opening comments that are designed to grab the listener’s attention. The spokesman says something along the lines of: “Few have mastered the art of name-calling.” He then plays a recording of one particular local sports talk radio host who on occasion, when provoked, refers to people who call into his show as: “Sissies. Gutless Amoebas. Yard birds.” Now, to be fair to this man, he doesn’t describe all his listeners that way; just the ones who ask silly questions or attack him without reason.Read More

If you were to ask the average Christian to quote one verse in the Bible that best summarizes what we call the gospel, most would instinctively turn to John 3:16. And that’s ok. It is stunning to think that because God loved this world of fallen sinners he sent his only Son, Jesus, so that if we believe in him we have everlasting life. So, you can’t make a mistake or go wrong by pointing to John 3:16 as an excellent summation of the gospel.Read More

Perhaps the greatest sound and light show in the history of God’s people took place in conjunction with the giving of the Ten Commandments. We are told in Exodus 20:18ff. that after God had spoken what are known as the Ten Words that “all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking” (Exod. 20:18a). Their response was anything but surprising: “the people were afraid and trembled and they stood far off” (Exod. 20:18b). Read More

I have to suppress the urge to laugh out loud when I hear Christians tell me how great it would be if we could only return to the glory days of the early church. They appear to believe that in the first century the church was far better off than it is today, that it knew little of division or false teaching and knew a lot of power and purity. I have to be entirely honest and say that this sort of spiritual nostalgia is horribly misinformed.Read More

Is it possible for a Christian to live like an atheist? I don’t mean “live like an atheist” in the sense that one actually denies the existence of God or commits sin repeatedly and feels no conviction or experiences no repentance. That person would have no basis for claiming to be a Christian in the first place. What I have in mind is a person who is born again going about his or her business and daily affairs without the slightest regard for God’s intimate personal involvement in what happens. I have in mind the person who gets up each day and pursues whatever responsibilities they have all the while presumptuously taking for granted that they are alive. I have in mind the person, born-again mind you, who rarely if ever pauses to consider that whether or not they live another 10 seconds or another 10 years is dependent on the sovereign will of God.Read More

It has been slightly more than a year and a half since we concluded a brief series of sermons on the question of whether or not born-again believers in Jesus Christ can lose or forfeit their salvation. We looked at virtually all the passages in the NT to determine if a person who has been justified by faith in Jesus Christ can somehow experience de-justification. Can a person who has been fully forgiven of their sins do something that would lead God to once again regard them as guilty for their sins and thus liable to eternal punishment for them? Can a true child of God be cast out of the divine family? In other words, can someone who has been adopted by God as a spiritual son or daughter lose their status and be eternally ostracized from the family of faith? Can someone who has been redeemed by the blood of Jesus fall back into bondage and spiritual slavery? Read More

I’d like to see a show of hands. How many of you here today are by nature patient? Is there anyone who finds patience as natural as breathing? Anyone? Anyone? I’m looking for that man or woman, young or old, who instinctively responds to irritating people and aggravating circumstances with a calm and controlled spirit. Anyone? Anyone? Hmmm. I didn’t think so.Read More

There is no way to exaggerate or overestimate what you could achieve by the grace of God if you were living in the full assurance of your hope in Christ. There is no way to exaggerate or overestimate how deeply you could enjoy the blessings of being a child of God if you were living in the full assurance of your hope in Christ. Let me turn that around and say the same thing in different terms. God wants you to know that you belong to him. His desire is for every one of his blood-bought children to be gripped and captivated by the certainty of the hope we have in Jesus. He wants you to rest in the full assurance of that hope so that you will live out of the overflow of his love for you. He wants you to rejoice in the assurance of that hope so that you can be both holy and happy in Christ. Read More

Truth, or integrity in our speech, that sense of moral obligation to God according to which we represent things as they really are, both in word and deed, has gradually eroded in many segments of our society. This shouldn’t come as a total surprise insofar as the first sin in the Garden of Eden was an attack upon the veracity or truthfulness of what God himself had said. Recall the statement: “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Man’s test consisted in his trust of the veracity of the God who uttered those words. Satan spoke to Eve: “You will not surely die” (Gen. 3:4b). Satan does not deny that God could inflict the punishment of death, as if to say that God’s power were at issue. Neither is it an impeachment of God’s knowledge, as if to suggest that Satan questioned God’s ability to anticipate the outcome of the whole affair. Rather, as John Murray makes clear:“He directly assails God’s veracity. ‘God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, your eyes will be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil’ (Genesis 3:5). He accuses God of deliberate falsehood and deception. God has perpetrated a lie, he avers, because he is jealous of his own selfish and exclusive possession of the knowledge of good and evil!” (Principles of Conduct, 126). Read More

To what lengths do you think God might go to provide you with rock solid proof that he loves you and will fulfill his promises to you? How extravagant might his efforts be? Is there a limit to what he might do or say in order for you to be encouraged and reassured that his promise to save you cannot be broken? Read More

So, let’s be honest with each other this morning about why we don’t pray as much as we know we should. When I talk with Christians of all ages and both genders, I hear comments like these:Read More

So, who the heck is Melchizedek? And assuming we can find an answer to that question here in Hebrews 7, what difference does it make to you and me? The best way for us to proceed in search of an answer is by pausing briefly and making certain that we know the flow of the book of Hebrews.Read More

Many of you are new to Bridgeway and may not as yet fully understand what we mean when we say we are a church committed to both the Word of God and the Spirit of God. Or, upon hearing that, you may respond by saying: “Big deal. All churches believe in the importance of the Bible, and all churches believe in the existence of the Holy Spirit.” That may be true, but that’s not what we mean here at Bridgeway.Read More

No matter how seemingly helpful the many psychological formulas that help you cope with life may be, no matter how transforming the practical counsel you might find in today’s world to help you with your problems may be, everything is either partial or periodic. What I mean by that is simply this: they only go so far and for so long before they lose their capacity to make a difference. Read More

The responses I hear when I ask someone to pray for the sick that they might be healed are varied: Read More

At our community group leaders gathering here on Friday night I spoke about what has been called the “scandal of particularity”. What many perceive to be the “scandal” of our evangelical faith is the idea we promote that there is only one particular pathway to God; only one particular and exclusive opportunity to be saved; only one particular person, namely, Jesus Christ, through whom we are reconciled to God. Read More

In July of last year, when we began this series of studies in the epistle of James, I pointed out in the first message that most scholars agree that the “James” who wrote this letter was in fact the half-brother of Jesus (see Mark 6:3-6). That is to say, he was the natural born son of Joseph and Mary. Like his other siblings, he was initially opposed to the ministry of Jesus, but after the resurrection he became a committed and loyal disciple of his older half-brother (see Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18).Read More

I did not plan for our study of Hebrews 8 to fall on the last Sunday of the month, the day on which we regularly celebrate the Lord’s Supper. I can only attribute that to divine providence! Of course, some of you may not immediately recognize the connection between the New Covenant, about which Hebrews 8 says more than any other passage in the NT, and our celebration of the Lord’s Supper. If that is true, I would simply remind you of the words spoken by Jesus when he celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples just before his betrayal and crucifixion. Read More

If every Christian isn’t familiar with 2 Timothy 3:16-17, every Christian should be. There the Apostle Paul made what most believe is the most important statement in the Bible about the Bible. He said:Read More

I’ll be the first to admit that on a number of occasions in our study of Hebrews I’ve wondered to myself: What does this book have to do with life in 2014? Its language seems so foreign and its images so distant and its symbolism so strange. We live in a world where a man has walked on the moon. We wake up each day to a life dominated by computer technology and threats of nuclear terrorism. And when we get sick we have antibiotics within arm’s reach. All this talk of high priests and blood sacrifices and ceremonial defilement and some guy named Melchizedek makes me wonder whether it’s really of practical benefit to study this book. Read More

So Moses said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle. There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again (Exodus 11:4-6)Read More

How seriously and sincerely do you look forward to the Second Coming of Christ? Does it occupy your thinking on a regular basis? I’m not asking whether or not you enjoy engaging in speculative debates with friends about the identity of the Antichrist or whether or not Russia will conspire with other nations to invade Israel. I’m not asking you about your opinion on whether or not there will be a so-called Great Tribulation and where you stand on the timing of the Rapture in relation to it. Read More

I’m going to begin by asking you a series of questions, to each of which, in my opinion, there is one simple answer. Read More

Most of you are too young to remember this, but in the 1970’s one of the most controversial books to be released came from the pen of Harvard University professor, B. F. Skinner. It was titled, Beyond Freedom and Dignity. The central thesis of that book was that inasmuch as humanity is on the verge of self-annihilation, it has become imperative that radically decisive steps be taken to control human behavior. Skinner, of course, was an advocate of biological evolution. You and I, said Skinner, are no more than the highest and most developed animal on the evolutionary scale. Read More

Gina Welch is a graduate of Yale University, teaches English at George Washington University, and is the author of the book, In the Land of Believers: An Outsider’s Extraordinary Journey into the Heart of the Evangelical Church (Metropolitan Books, 2010). Here is the description she provided of herself: “I am a secular Jew raised by a single mother in Berkeley, where we took a day off school in October for Indigenous Peoples, not for Christopher Columbus. I cuss, I drink, and I am not a virgin. I have never believed in God” (2).Read More

This passage in Hebrews 10 makes a lot of people extremely uncomfortable. More than a few of you were probably squirming in your seats as I read it just a moment ago. And it isn’t primarily because it seems to suggest that a Christian can lose his/her salvation. That, of course, is an important issue that I’ll take up shortly. No, I’m referring to the language here that speaks of such things as judgment, the fury of fire consuming sinful people, punishment, and vengeance.Read More

This portion of God’s Word that we call the Letter to the Hebrews has occupied our attention now for thirty weeks. Although I had studied and even preached through Hebrews many years ago, its impact on me this time has been far beyond anything I experienced before. Over and over again, almost on a weekly basis, this letter has rocked my world. I’ve been encouraged one week and challenged the next. I’ve been deeply convicted by the Holy Spirit only then to be reminded of the glory of having had my sins finally and forever forgiven. I’ve been stunned by the majesty of Jesus, our Great High Priest, one week, only then to be overwhelmed by his meekness and mercy the next. Read More

Before we so much as stick our big toe into the deep waters of Hebrews 11, I want to make two things crystal clear. The first has to do with the nature and meaning of Christian faith. The second relates to the place of Hebrews 11 in the context of the book of Hebrews as a whole. Read More

In November, 1963, I was in the 8th grade at San Jacinto Junior High in Midland, Texas. We were in the cafeteria having lunch when news broke that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas. After things quieted down a bit, our attention, somewhat surprisingly, turned to the question of whether or not Vice-President, Lyndon B. Johnson, known as LBJ, would be a fit replacement. I remember that somehow a rumor started that LBJ had himself suffered a heart attack, collapsing under the pressure of the moment and the prospects of becoming president following Kennedy’s death. Although the rumor proved to be false, it didn’t take away from our concerns for the competency of Kennedy’s successor. Read More

Some of you probably think that I take a certain perverse pleasure in bursting your deeply cherished doctrinal bubbles or in slaying your sacred cows when it comes to certain long-held beliefs about the Bible. I don’t. Well, o.k., so maybe I do, just a little bit. But my real pleasure comes from providing you with a clear explanation of the truth of God’s Word, and if in the process of doing so I have to call into question some of the things you may have been incorrectly taught in the past, well, so be it.Read More

The purpose of Hebrews 11 is to encourage us in our own personal journeys of faith. As our author said in Hebrews 10:36, “you have need of endurance,” and as he will say yet again in Hebrews 12:1, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” To endure in the face of pressure, persecution, suffering, and general laziness, we need faith, the sort of faith that is modeled for us in the many people noted in Hebrews 11. Today we are going to look closely at what may well be the two most stunning examples of faith in this remarkable chapter. Read More

I want to portray for you two similar scenarios, one that is applicable to men and the other to women. Read More

I wasn’t able to see the movie that came out a few months ago, but I do remember when the book first came out in 1972. I’m talking about Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. If you haven’t read it, you should. This one excerpt will give you a good sense for what it’s about. Read More

Not all Christians will appreciate or respond positively to what I have to say this morning about the nature of their relationship with Jesus Christ and what it means to live as a Christian. I’m sorry to have to begin this message on such a negative note, but the fact remains that many of those who profess to follow Jesus have a horribly distorted and unbiblical perspective on what is meant by the Christian life. Let me explain. Read More

There are several things that I would love to be able to tell you, but I can’t. My commitment to the inspiration and authority of the Bible won’t allow it. For example, I would like to be able to say that you need not ever again be concerned about or pray for your unsaved family members or friends because there is no such thing as hell or eternal condemnation. I would love to be able to tell you that, but I can’t.Read More

I’ve always been both intrigued and encouraged by something John the Apostle wrote in the fifth chapter of his first epistle: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). Jesus said something almost identical in Matthew 11. In making his appeal for people to follow him, he gave this reason: “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30).Read More

There are numerous important spiritual lessons for us to learn from this passage, but my focus today is on only one. And as you can see from our reading of this text, it concerns the obvious and unmistakable contrast between the old covenant, as represented by Mt. Sinai, and the new covenant, as represented by Mt. Zion. Read More

As best I can remember, it was the spring of 1971. Ann and I had been dating for about seven months. I’m not sure how committed she was to me but I was absolutely certain that we were going to get married. As far as I was concerned, she was my girl and nothing or no one was going to get in the way of our future together.Read More

On a couple of occasions in our series on Joshua, I’ve mentioned how some people make the mistake of thinking that they can take the experience of the people of Israel in 1,500 b.c. and impose it, somewhat simplistically, upon our own situation in 2012 a.d. The reason why this is a mistake is that Joshua and the people of Israel were living under the Old or Mosaic Covenant. Their relationship with God, therefore, was governed and shaped by the laws set forth in Exodus and Leviticus and Numbers and Deuteronomy. We, on the other hand, live under the New Covenant established by Christ. We as the Church are not a theocratic nation with definable geographic boundaries. The Church is an international spiritual body governed primarily by the Scriptures of the New Testament. Read More

I read the other day that Amazon.com currently lists for sale 151,000 books on marriage, 27,000 books on dating, 12,000 books on attraction, and more than 190,000 books on sex. One would think that with this massive focus on sex and marriage and the plethora of books from which people might draw more information than they could ever hope to process that we, as a society, would have grown up and matured by now and that marriage as the foundation of the family would be strong and held in high regard by all thinking people. But such is so very, very far from reality.Read More

I’m not a huge fan of ranking the comparative benefits or blessings of the gospel. I know some believe that adoption into the family of God as spiritual sons and daughters is the greatest blessing of the gospel. Others prefer justification, the truth that through faith we are declared righteous in Jesus. Occasionally you will hear someone talk about forgiveness of sins or the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as the greatest benefit we gain through faith in Jesus.Read More

Change is inevitable in virtually every sphere of our existence. Next year we will witness a change in the presidency of the United States, and with it, regardless of who is elected, will undoubtedly come changes in our economy and our foreign policy and how much we pay in taxes. All of us who live in Oklahoma know that if there is anything that is change-less about the weather in our great state it is that it changes not just daily but hourly! Our jobs change. Our bodies change. Our circle of friends changes. Change can be unsettling and even frightful, but the reality of it will never change. As someone once said, the only changeless thing about life on this planet is that everything in it and about it changes. Read More

How’s your heart? No, I don’t mean that organ in your chest. I’m not asking if you’ve recently suffered cardiac arrest. I’m not asking for information about your pulse rate or your white blood count or how high or low your cholesterol may be. I have no interest today in the results of your most recent electrocardiogram or how many times your heart beats in a minute. And I’m not interested in your family’s history of heart disease. None of this means that I don’t care about your physical health. Far less does it mean that you shouldn’t care. Of course you should. Your physical body is a gift from God and serves as the temple of the Holy Spirit. You must be diligent to take good care of your body. Don’t neglect your physical health. Read More

I want to dispense today with any prolonged introduction and jump right into the deep end of the pool. In Hebrews 13:14 our author says that Christians, and I assume that means you who are in attendance here today, are people who know and believe in the depths of your heart that “here” on this present earth, in its present form, “we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14). Read More

Two weeks ago the Pew Research Center released the results of its most recent survey of America’s religious landscape. I wasn’t at all surprised by the statistics. The survey indicated that whereas in 2007 more than 78% of Americans identified as Christian, that number has plummeted to just over 70%. In other words, there was a 7.8% decline in those who identify as Christians. The biggest losses were in mainline Protestant denominations and among Roman Catholics. The percentage of those identifying as Evangelicals remained basically the same. Read More

G. K. Chesterton, turn of the century British author, Roman Catholic, and journalist, once famously said: “Christianity has not so much been tried and found wanting, as it has been found difficult and left untried.” Each time I hear those words I have the same feeling of ambivalence rise up in my heart. In other words, I find myself wanting to say to Chesterton, “Well, Yes, . . . but, then again, No.”Read More

I.              Epistolary Introduction - 1:1-17   A.            Paul and the Principles of the Gospel- 1:1-7   1.             The messenger of the gospel - 1:1   a.              his captivity - v. 1a b. ...Read More

"If the Epistle to the Romans rightly has been called 'the cathedral of Christian faith', then surely the eighth chapter may be regarded as its most sacred shrine, or its high altar of worship, of praise, and of prayer. . . . Here, we stand in the full liberty of the children of God, and enjoy a prospect of that glory of God which some day we are to share" (Charles Erdman).   The beauty of Romans 8 can be seen in two of its most prominent characteristics. (1) Ther...Read More

One might well argue that Daniel 9:24-27 is both the most complex and the most crucial text in either testament bearing on the subject of biblical prophecy. Its complexity is questioned only by those who have not studied it, or perhaps by those whose conclusions concerning its meaning were predetermined by unspoken theological commitments. That Daniel 9 is as crucial as I have suggested can hardly be denied. For example, dispensationalists have largely derived from Danie...Read More

Ephesians is surely one of the greatest of our NT books. Samuel Taylor Coleridge called it 'the divinest composition of man. J. A. Robinson described it as 'the crown of St. Paul's writings. F. F. Bruce referred to it as 'the quintessence of Paulinism, and the Catholic scholar Raymond Brown contends that only Romans could match Ephesians 'as a candidate for exercising the most influence on Christian thought and spirituality. Klyne Snodgrass has written that ''Pound for P...Read More

God's Church: Its Doctrinal Foundation (the Indicative) - 1:1-3:21 A.             Prologue 1:1-2 B.             Praise 1:3-14 C.             Prayer 1:15-23 D.            Our Salvation 2:1-22 1.       ...Read More

We have noted on several occasions that Ephesians is comprised of two distinct yet integrally related parts: God's Church: Its Theological Foundations (the Indicative) 1:1-3:21 God's Church: Its Practical Responsibilities (the Imperative) 4:1-6:20 What is the significance of these two sections, especially their relationship to each other? "Hitherto, under Paul's trusty guidance, his crusaders have been treading the loftiest passes of revelation, absorbed in the panor...Read More

I.               God's Church: its Theological Foundations (the Indicative) 1:1-3:21 II.             God's Church: its Practical Responsibilities (the Imperative) 4:1-6:20 A.             Walking Worthy 4:1-5:21 1.           &nb...Read More

In terms of its place in the argument of the epistle, Rom. 1:18-3:20 is something of an interruption. Moo explains:   "Paul implicitly acknowledges that 1:18-3:20 is an interruption in his exposition of the righteousness of God by his clearly intentional 'reprise' of 1:17 in 3:21: 'But now the righteousness of God has been manifested. . . .' Why this interruption? What is the purpose of this step-by-step indictment of humanity?" (88)   It would appear that ...Read More

IV.          God's Purpose with Israel - 9:1-11:36 V.            God's Principles for Living - 12:1-15:13   a A.            The Christian and Life - 12:1-21   Here we see the spiritually organic relationship between Christian doctrine and Christian duty. From the lofty theological heights of Romans 1-11,...Read More

IV.          God's Purpose with Israel - 9:1-11:36 V.            God's Principles for Living - 12:1-15:13 A.            The Christian and Life - 12:1-21 B.            The Christian and Law - 13:1-14   1.        &nbs...Read More

How is a Christian to act with regard to matters not explicitly addressed in Scripture? How is a Christian to conduct himself/herself in situations on which the Bible is silent? This is the question Paul addresses in Romans 14. We could as easily ask: "What is the nature and extent of Christian freedom" The NT speaks of three types of freedom: 1) Freedom from the condemnation of God (cf. Rom. 8:1); 2) Freedom from the compulsion to sin (cf. Rom. 6:14); and 3) Freedom fro...Read More

Jesus on Divorce and RemarriageRead More

I.              God's Purpose with Israel - 9:1-11:36 A.            Israel's Fall - 9:1-33   1.             Paul's pain - 9:1-5 2.             God's purpose - 9:6-13 3.         &nb...Read More

As we begin this new series on the person and power of the Holy Spirit, in particular the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church, I want you to look with me at two articles in the Bridgeway Statement of Faith. Article 1 is our statement on the inspiration and authority of the Bible, and Article 6 is what we believe about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. 1.         We believe that the Scriptures, both Old and New Testament...Read More

“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30). The idea that we can grieve the Holy Spirit is nothing short of stunning. That by our actions and words and unrepentant sin we mere humans can cause pain or distress to the eternal and omnipotent third person of the Holy Trinity is simply breathtaking. It’s scary too. I won’t enumerate the many ways in which we grieve the Spirit. That would be d...Read More

I often tell young preachers and teachers of God’s Word that much of their responsibility in communicating the truth of Scripture is wrapped up in first deconstructing and then reconstructing the beliefs of the people who sit under their ministry. What I mean is that most people come to a church service or a Bible study or a house church meeting with their belief system already pretty much in place. They don’t know that, but if you pressed them you’d di...Read More

Paula was raised in a Christian home where church attendance was commonplace. But it wasn’t until she was eleven years old that she began to take a serious interest in who Jesus is. That summer she attended a church camp and for the very first time consciously repented of her sins and put her faith in the atoning death of Jesus as her only hope for eternal life. It was a wonderful experience that brought both joy and a sense of relief. She never doubted from that m...Read More

I don’t think I would have enjoyed living during the time of the Old Testament, that era of redemptive history before the coming of Jesus Christ. I don’t think I would have enjoyed having to bring a blood sacrifice year after year after year, knowing that the offering up of bulls and goats could never truly and finally take away the guilt of my sin. I don’t think I would have enjoyed the long list of detailed and often bizarre regulations and laws that ...Read More

You probably know this, but non-Christians have their favorite Bible verses too. If I were to choose one that is probably quoted most often by those who reject Jesus, it would undoubtedly be Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” They love that verse! But there are other passages in God’s Word that non-Christians love to recite. 1 Corinthians 13 is certainly one of them. If you don’t believe me, think back on the many wedding ceremonie...Read More

Although you may not have noticed at first reading, this passage in 1 Corinthians 13 tells us a great deal about what heaven will be like. (1) It tells us first that heaven will be dominated by love. This is Paul’s point in saying in v. 9 that “love never ends.” Whereas the gift of prophecy and word of knowledge and speaking in tongues and healing and all other such spiritual gifts will one day come to an end, love will never end. Love endures not only...Read More

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth&rdquo...Read More

There was a time in the history of the so-called charismatic movement when the most controversial and divisive topic was that of speaking in tongues. Not anymore. That’s not to say everyone agrees on the subject of tongues. Far from it. But the most volatile issue today, and probably for the past 30 or so years, is the spiritual gift of prophecy. So what is the spiritual gift of prophecy? When I use the word prophecy I’m not referring primarily to the predic...Read More

Up to this point in our study of the gift of prophecy in 1 Corinthians 12-14 we’ve looked at a number of principles that govern our understanding of what it is and how it operates. But the time has come for us to look more closely at prophecy in actual, real-life practice. And there’s no better place to do that than in Acts 21. Here we come face to face with the way prophecy functioned in the concrete affairs of life and ministry. Beginning with Acts 21, Luk...Read More

My first encounter with the gifts of the Spirit came when I was nineteen years old. In the summer of 1970, after my freshman year at the University of Oklahoma I was living in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, serving with Campus Crusade for Christ on an evangelistic project. We spent the summer witnessing to those who visited the beaches and casinos. I pumped gas in a Shell station. There wasn’t much excitement in that, except for Fridays, when the motorcycle gangs from Sacram...Read More

Questions we asked and answered last week: (1) Are the tongues in Acts 2 genuine human languages previously unknown to the speakers? (2) Are tongues evangelistic? (3) Are all tongues legitimate human languages? (4) What is the purpose of the gift of tongues? (5) Is the gift of tongues to be used in one’s private devotional life? (6) Are tongues a “sign”? According to 1 Corinthians 14:22, the answer would appear to be “Yes.” This follow...Read More

We have finally come to the end of our brief series that I entitled, “Life in the Spirit.” Our aim was to examine what Paul said about spiritual gifts in the life of the church and in the lives of individual Christians as found in 1 Corinthians 12-14. In bringing this study to a close, we’ve arrived at the final paragraph of 1 Corinthians 14, one in which Paul addresses several important and very controversial subjects. So our approach in this final me...Read More

What does the church in Minneapolis most need to know about God today? It’s been two days since the collapse of the I-35W bridge (August 1, 2007) and countless people are suffering both physically and emotionally in the aftermath of this devastating event. Some lost family members in this tragedy. Others’ lives were spared but they are hospitalized with a variety of injuries. Those not directly involved, but perhaps friends with those who were, are struggling...Read More

One thing that I’ve never heard said is that people profit the most from those who suffer the least. The most profound and lasting encouragement typically emanates from people who’ve experienced the deepest trials and greatest loss. When I’m hurting or wallowing in self-pity, I don’t instinctively turn to those who’ve been insulated from pain or who’ve never tasted the bitter dregs of disappointment and heartache. People who’ve w...Read More

Let me provide a brief sketch of Paul’s experience so that we might have a framework for understanding the profound spiritual lessons that follow. Sometime between the writing of 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians, most likely no earlier than the spring of 55 a.d. and no later than the summer or fall of 56 a.d., Paul had what he considered a singular and altogether unique brush with death that transformed his perspective on life and ministry and, above all, his relat...Read More

If you’ve ever had doubts about the importance and power of prayer, and yes, all of us have, this passage is for you. Paul has just confidently declared that the God who already delivered him from a life-threatening affliction would do so yet again (v. 10). God’s purpose in Paul’s suffering had worked: he no longer looked to himself but now trusted wholly in the “God who raises the dead” (v. 9). I can just hear some conclude from this: &ld...Read More

No one enjoys being misunderstood or having their motives called into question. We can get fairly feisty when others question our integrity in this way, especially if we know in the depths of our heart that we intended only good. We are all by nature defensive, but there are different ways of going about vindicating our reputation or explaining our aim. All too often we react, rather than respond, and do so in anger and bitterness at those who’ve dared to express ...Read More

“For our boast is this: the testimony of our conscience that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you” (2 Cor. 1.12). This passage is one more example of those many biblical texts that are typically ignored but carry a powerful word of both rebuke and encouragement to the church. I hardly need remind you of the crisis that exists in pastoral ministry today. Rarely...Read More

There are times when I think the citizens of Corinth have been given a bad rap. I know I’ve been guilty of it. When in need of an example of sin run amok, or immaturity, or theological ignorance, I’ve often pointed at Corinth. Poor chaps. Yet, the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that they probably weren’t much different from the rest of us. Yes, I know, there was division in the church there, not to mention immorality, ambition, and spiri...Read More

Theologian Alister McGrath once identified the Holy Spirit as “the Cinderella of the Trinity. The other two sisters,” he said, “may have gone to the theological ball; the Holy Spirit got left behind every time” (Christian Theology, 240). My, my, how times have changed! Contemporary interest in the person and ministry of the Spirit is unparalleled in the history of the church. As a result, passages such as 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 are being given rene...Read More

Do you fight for joy? Do you think of joy as something to be sought as the object of diligent striving and focused labor? Or do you think of it more as an after-effect, a by-product of other and more important pursuits? Or am I splitting hairs, leaving you to wonder, “Sam, what difference does it make?” I think we should let Paul answer that question. As we’ve already noted on several occasions, Paul goes to extraordinary lengths to explain why he chan...Read More

I know this may be a stretch for many of you, but I’d like to ask that you meditate with me today on the subject of church discipline. That’s right, church discipline. The fact that your immediate and instinctive response is probably somewhat (or considerably) negative reflects how far removed we are today from the spirit of the New Testament. As we’ll see, a commitment to discipline in the local church is indicative not only of one’s love for hol...Read More

life and unity of the body of Christ, Satan is anything but a passive, innocent bystander. Although he may be invisible to the eye and undetected by physical means, you may rest assured that he is present, employing every imaginable device (and some unimaginable) to undermine the integrity of God’s people and to sow seeds of discord and confusion. Paul was himself extremely careful and deliberate in how he sought to resolve the problem in Corinth, lest they all &ld...Read More

One of the more not-so-subtle delusions that exists in many corners of the professing Christian church is what I refer to as Triumphalism. I use that word rather than a more technical theological phrase (“Over-realized Eschatology”) lest I lose you up front.   The bottom line in triumphalism is the belief that the overt and consummate victories that we will experience only in the age to come are available to us now. I’m not saying that we as Chri...Read More

How do you measure success? By what standard do you assess how well you’ve done? When you take stock of your life or evaluate the effectiveness of whatever ministry God has given you, how do you determine the outcome? Do you count heads? Or money? Do you apply the criteria typically used in a Gallup poll or Barna survey? Do you size up your efforts as over against those of high-achieving folk in the market place or perhaps line up your congregation, side by side, w...Read More

As noted in an earlier meditation, the dangers of triumphalism are very real and imposing. We must resist the temptation to think that faith either insulates us from the trials and struggles and groan of life or elevates us above them altogether. Our “triumph” is precisely in our grace-empowered endurance in the midst of suffering as we faithfully proclaim the gospel, regardless of whether or how many either believe or repudiate the message. But we must also...Read More

Salvation and our relationship to the Lord are described in any number of ways in the New Testament, using a variety of images, metaphors, and analogies. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and we are the sheep. God is the giver of life and we are born again. He is the compassionate Father and we are adopted. God is the righteous judge and we are justified. The Spirit is an indwelling presence and we are his temple, and the list could go on without end. But one of the more intri...Read More

Nothing is more frustrating than knowing what one ought to do and lacking the power to perform it. To see and read and be confronted with the will of God all the while one is bereft of the resolve and spiritual energy to respond in a positive fashion is my definition of despair! That is why I thank God daily that I do not live in an age when the law of God was merely written on stone and called for my obedience without the promise of the provision of power. That is why ...Read More

There are times when I worry if I’m making progress in the Christian life. Honestly, there are times when I’m quite sure I’m not. I’m not talking about overt backsliding or moral regression, but a feeling of spiritual inertia that causes me to wonder if I’m moving forward toward greater conformity to Christ.   Of course, if I weren’t making progress I probably wouldn’t be worried about whether I am or not! In other words, ...Read More

How do you fight discouragement? Or do you? Are you among those who simply yield to its relentless onslaught and give up? People who fall into the latter category typically deal with disappointment in one of two ways. Some continue to work and “minister” (if that word is even appropriate to describe what they do) but do so with murmuring and impatience, bitterness toward God, self-pity within, and anger at anything that moves. Others respond to the pain of ...Read More

Earlier in 2 Corinthians 3:17, the apostle Paul spoke of those who were “peddlers of God’s word”. In our meditation on that passage, I explained that he had in mind someone who dilutes the full strength of the gospel, perhaps eliminating (or at least minimizing) its offensive elements, or altering certain theological points, so that the finished "product" will be more appealing to the audience. The aim was obviously to gain as large a following as possi...Read More

If you want to maintain a reputation in secular society for being culturally sophisticated, educated and enlightened, don’t ever mention the fact that you believe in a literal devil. Few things will more quickly and thoroughly sabotage your reputation and standing than letting it be known that you believe demonic spirits are real and active and to an extent are responsible for why those who are mocking you are, in fact, mocking you. On the other hand, if you are m...Read More

If Satan is actively blinding the minds of unbelievers to compound and perpetuate their bondage in spiritual darkness (2 Cor. 4:3-4), what possible hope is there? We seem left only to despair of unsaved loved ones. What, if anything, can bring the unregenerate into life? What, if anything, can dispel the darkness of unbelief and awaken the heart to the beauty of Christ? What, if anything, can we do in the face of such Satanic opposition? The answer, said Paul, is to pro...Read More

All of us, at one time or another and some more than others, fear that our weakness is a barrier to God’s purposes. We feel so very keenly the promptings of our flesh, the lack of emotional energy, our ignorance of basic truths, not to mention physical exhaustion or sickness, anxiety, and self-doubt. Then, of course, there is the absence of political and social influence, the ridicule incurred for following Christ and, for some, oppression and more severe forms of ...Read More

Last night I spoke briefly with a long time friend who is facing yet another round of intense treatments for a recurring brain tumor. The dosage level of pain medication which he requires simply to survive each day is almost incomprehensible. When I got off the phone, visibly shaken, Ann asked me how he was doing. It seemed only fitting to answer: “He’s afflicted in every way, but not crushed; quite obviously he and his family are perplexed, but not driven to...Read More

Fear can be a paralyzing force in the life of the Christian. Whether from fear of being rejected or persecuted or perhaps not wanting to be seen as lacking cogent answers to controversial questions, many remain silent.   I doubt if there has ever been a believer who hasn’t at some time kept his or her mouth shut when they should have spoken. With hindsight, we look back on the occasion and feel the sting of guilt, even shame, for having let cowardice rather ...Read More

I can’t remember who said it or wrote it, but I agree with it: the power to persevere comes from gazing intently at what you can’t see. Needless to say, that calls for explanation. But the explanation itself requires a context.   The context is Paul’s discussion of how we as Christians daily carry about in our bodies the dying of Jesus, and do so without succumbing to despair or bitterness. His comments that concern us today, in 2 Corinthians 4:1...Read More

I’m dying. I don’t say that because I’ve just returned from the doctor with a fatal diagnosis, whether of cancer or heart disease, but I’m dying. So, too, are you. With each passing moment, no matter how vigorously we exercise and how nutritiously we eat, we are deteriorating physically. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “our outer nature is wasting away.” Nevertheless, and for this we praise God, “our inner nature is being ren...Read More

“Let us consider this settled,” said John Calvin, “that no one has made progress in the school of Christ who does not joyfully await the day of death and final resurrection” (Institutes, 3.9.5). All non-Christians and, sadly, some professing believers, would regard that as a statement of unparalleled lunacy. For them, the “day of death” is something to dread, the prospect of which evokes fear and the avoidance of which justifies any sa...Read More

To this point in our study of what happens when a Christian dies, most everyone is pleased with what Paul has written. So why spoil everything by talking about judgment? I can anticipate what people will say: “I was thrilled when you described the reality of the intermediate state and the assurance of bodily resurrection. I was ecstatic upon hearing that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. But judgment? Couldn’t you have conveniently sk...Read More

The inescapable reality of the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10) is a sobering thing. It takes hold of the heart and forces us to think about what we cherish and how we speak and what we do and the many and varied ways that we use our time and money and energy and gifts.   But what effect, if any, does it have on your responsibility toward others? It’s easy to become self-absorbed when thinking about judgment and recompense for deeds done in this life. B...Read More

There’s hardly anything more painful and disheartening than being misunderstood. I can’t begin to imagine what Jesus must have felt each time the religious leaders twisted his words into something he never intended or misinterpreted his motives or impugned his character, attributing to him ideas or aims foreign to his heart.   The apostle Paul was another who often experienced this kind of misunderstanding. His actions often ran counter to the cultural...Read More

What gets you going in the morning? Aside from an alarm clock and the prospect of being fired from your job should you choose to remain in bed, what energizes you to face each day? How do you account for your decision to press on in life when there seem to be so many reasons to quit? Do you find yourself coerced by an external force, perhaps a threat, a promise, or the hope of winning the lottery (that’s not an endorsement to purchase a ticket)? Is your life defi...Read More

“Houston, we have a problem,” words made famous by Jim Lovell of Apollo 13 fame, may well apply to our efforts to understand something Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5. Careful students of Scripture will have noted that Paul is describing in chapter five, among other things, his motivation for how he conducted himself among the Corinthians and in the world at large. Yet, he appears to affirm what many would consider mutually incompatible, contradictory ways of ...Read More

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the death and resurrection of Christ? I suspect that most would point to such truths as the forgiveness of sins, or the fact that in his death the wrath of God was satisfied, or that we are redeemed and Satan is defeated and heaven is secured. Surely, all these and countless other truths are the consequence of what Christ accomplished on our behalf. But what are the implications of his atoning work for how ...Read More

Few things are more frustrating than the gradual erosion of meaning in Christian language. For example, I often wonder if the people who applaud the hymn Amazing Grace have any idea of what they are singing. Do they know what it means, biblically speaking, to be a “lost” “wretch” in need of “salvation”? Sadly, the notion of divine “grace” that redeems from sin and delivers from eternal wrath, apart from human works, has bee...Read More

If asked for a concise, biblical definition of the gospel, indeed, a definition of Christianity itself, one could hardly be faulted for pointing to the following paragraph in 2 Corinthians 5. "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, w...Read More

I “know” sin. I say this not because I can define sin, although I can. I say this not because I can identify sin when I see it, although I can also do that. I say it because I am a sinner. I “know” sin because I commit it, sadly, on a daily basis. My acquaintance with sin, therefore, does not come from associating with others who transgress or from reading a book on Hamartiology (the technical, theological term for the study of Sin). I “know...Read More

I struggle to think of a more glowing endorsement than that which Paul gave the church in Thessalonica. He applauds them for the fact that when the gospel was preached they “received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:6). Again, “when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (1 Th...Read More

Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, recently made news by announcing his intention to investigate several prominent Christian ministries to determine whether or not they have exploited their tax-exempt status as churches to provide themselves with opulent and lavish lifestyles. Those who’ve been asked by the Senator to submit financial records include Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, Edd...Read More

In case you skipped it, let me repeat the question in the title: “When People see You, does God look Good?” Not many of us phrase it in precisely that way or even think in those terms. It’s far more natural for us to ask, “When people see me, do I look good?” Do I impress them with my charisma? Are they captivated by my wit? Are they attracted by how I dress? Did they take note of my intelligence? Do they still think of me an hour or two lat...Read More

This past weekend (January 18-20, 2008) Ann and I had the privilege of attending the World Mandate conference in Waco, Texas, sponsored by Antioch Community Church and Antioch Ministries International. This was our second time to make the trip south for what has proven on both occasions to be a marvelously instructive and encouraging experience.   World Mandate has one preeminent goal, regardless of the year or the speakers or the date when it is held. That goal i...Read More

There is hardly a time when I’m more keenly aware of my sinful and selfish orientation than when my personal comfort and convenience are threatened or interrupted. When I miss a meal, I’m grumpy. When the air conditioner breaks, I’m irritable. When I’m in pain, I complain. It grieves me to see how often I act as if I deserved physical security and emotional peace and a full stomach. I’m stunned by how much time, energy, and money I devote to...Read More

What’s a Christian to do? In a world of increasing contempt for the gospel and, more often than not, overt and unapologetic opposition, how is a follower of Jesus to respond? In the face of legislation that undermines our moral convictions, a secular atheism that marginalizes our presence, and a radical Islamic fundamentalism that seeks our utter eradication, is the Christian a helpless pawn in the chess game of global maneuvering? Do we fight back, and if so, how?...Read More

On June 22, 1750, Jonathan Edwards was fired. After twenty-four years of ministry at the church in Northampton, Massachusetts, twenty-one of which as senior pastor, America’s greatest pastor-theologian was dismissed by an overwhelming vote of the male membership (women were not allowed to vote).   Edwards’ response? After enduring years of theological wrangling, bitter opposition, rancorous slander, and malicious gossip, one might have expected him eit...Read More

The dictionary entry on the word “Schizophrenia” defines it as “a situation or condition that results from the coexistence of disparate or antagonistic qualities, identities, or activities” (http://www.dictionary.com/). Another entry reads: “a state characterized by the coexistence of contradictory or incompatible elements.”   Given these definitions, there is a sense in which Christianity gives every appearance of being schizop...Read More

I recently received an e-mail from a reader who was lamenting the tragic absence of love in the body of Christ. He was grieved by the failure of many to take seriously the words of John, who insisted that “whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:21b).   The failure of the Church to love its own is an ugly blemish on the public face of Christianity. All of us have seen it, and many have felt its pain. There are countless reasons why this...Read More

What does it mean to be in the world but not of it? How is a Christian supposed to relate to those who despise and ridicule the name of Christ? To what extent are we to engage with the surrounding culture? Should a Christian shop at a store owned by a cult? Is the boycott an essential and effective expression of the church's protest against immorality in our society? These are tough questions for which quick and overly-confident answers are unwise, and usually wrong. Al...Read More

On the one hand, I don't want to be guilty of unwarranted exaggeration. On the other, I'm hard-pressed to think of a more theologically important, spiritually encouraging, and eschatologically controversial statement than that of Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:16b. "For we are the temple of the living God"! The starting point for understanding this crucial concept is the Old Testament narrative in which we find the visible manifestation of the splendor of God among his people,...Read More

When a known liar makes a promise, few take notice. We're even skeptical when a trusted friend assures us of something that seems too good to be true. But when the God who cannot lie (cf. Heb. 6:18) puts his word on the line and stakes his reputation on the fulfillment of his declared purpose, take it to the bank. 2 Corinthians 7:1 is a call to holiness based on the rock-solid, infallible, blood-bought promises of God. "Since we have these promises," says Paul, "let us ...Read More

Books, seminars, and conferences on principles of leadership are in abundant supply today. Equally popular are those which focus more specifically on pastoral ministry. Sadly, many of these are governed by assumptions and values more suitable to the Wall Street board room or to the office of a typical CEO than to the local church. When I'm asked to recommend resources on the training up of pastors or for wisdom in shaping the future leaders of this or the next generatio...Read More

Every so often we need to be reminded of the historical nature of the Bible. Contrary to how many have conceived it, this glorious book did not fall gently like manna from heaven. Its many narratives, prophecies, and letters were forged in the grit of real life struggles and the multitude of human relational dynamics not unlike what we encounter today. Nowhere is this better seen than in 2 Corinthians. In fact, the lengthy paragraph before us (2 Cor. 7:5-16) is unintell...Read More

James Dobson may have coined the phrase Tough Love, but he didn’t invent the concept. Paul did. Well, it may have existed before Paul, but he certainly perfected its use.   Often we excuse our failure to speak truth into a person’s life because of the pain and emotional discomfort it may cause them. We live under the assumption that genuine love will do whatever it can either to prevent or alleviate the immediate distress in the object of our affection...Read More

I’ve always been intrigued by the dynamic interplay that exists within the body of Christ when it is functioning as God desires. The very imagery of the church as a “body” in which the various members contribute to the well-being of the whole is quite remarkable.   Sadly, though, we don’t experience this as often as we should. Western individualism is frequently at odds with the interdependence and mutuality that ought to exist among the ma...Read More

As we begin our study in 2 Corinthians 8-9 and dig deeply into Paul’s perspective on the subject of money and stewardship, it may prove helpful to briefly address a most controversial question.   The issue is not whether Christians are responsible to be generous with their wealth in giving back a portion of it to support the work of the ministry. 2 Corinthians 8-9, as well as other texts, make it quite clear that we are. The question, rather, is whether New ...Read More

It almost seems that people in ministry today either rarely talk about money or rarely talk about anything else! The former are afraid of sounding greedy and manipulative while the latter consider wealth a spiritual birthright of all Christians. For the one, money is an enemy, for the other, an entitlement.   The apostle Paul would take issue with both groups. He is unashamed to issue what amounts to a passionate and persistent appeal to the Corinthians that they ...Read More

I want you to think with me today on how the Bible functions in our lives. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (emphasis mine). All this so that you and I “may be competent, equipped for every good work.”   So let me come straight to the point. I’m thoroughly reproved by 2 Corinthians 8:1-2! Other translatio...Read More

I’ve already devoted two meditations to the opening verses of 2 Corinthians 8, but there is yet more to mine from this deep well of spiritual riches. Let’s look again at Paul’s words as he seeks to stir the Corinthians to a generosity equal to that of the Macedonians: “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extr...Read More

"Greed is good," declared Michael Douglas in the movie Wall Street. "Greed works." It was a shock when I first heard those chilling words spoken with such forthright and unashamed simplicity. To this day it's hard to shake free of them. Hollywood is well known for its determination to mock, deny, or otherwise undermine Christian values, and these stunning words by Gordon Gecko, the character played by Douglas, are a vivid case in point. As Christians we face countless e...Read More

When was the last time you heard or read of a financial scandal in some local church or para-church ministry? Sadly, probably not too long ago. Whether due to the exorbitant and opulent lifestyle of some leader, or mismanagement and the lack of foresight, or perhaps even outright theft, the church stands in constant threat from this problem. The churches in ancient Philippi, Thessalonica, and Corinth, just to mention a few, were no different. Human nature was the same t...Read More

Consider with me the far-reaching, all-pervasive, ever-mysterious sovereignty of our great and glorious God! He rules the heavens above, having set the stars in place. He calls them each by name and upholds them to the praise of his power. (Isa. 40:25-26; Ps. 147:4). He creates the clouds and directs their paths and forms each drop of rain (Ps. 135:7; 147:8). Snow and hail and wind and waves are subject to his command (Job 37:6; Ps. 147:16-18). Lightnings flash at his ...Read More

Much has been written in recent years both to defend and to criticize the so-called Prosperity Gospel. The best and most balanced response to this movement, in my opinion, is the book, Faith, Health and Prosperity, commissioned by the Evangelical Alliance Commission on Unity and Truth among Evangelicals and edited by Andrew Perriman (for a review of the book, see www.SamStorms.com). The book was initially undertaken in response to concerns raised by the ministry in the ...Read More

What thoughts fill your mind as you sign a check made payable to your local congregation? When an offering is collected for support of a church planting effort in Thailand, do you give grudgingly (“I’m getting tired of them asking me for money; they must think I’m a millionaire”), from guilt (“The last time I said no, and used the money on a new car”), or gladly (“Praise God for this glorious expansion of the gospel where it has ...Read More

But Sam, what will become of me if I sow bountifully? Will there be enough for my needs? Will I be able to provide for my family? What about the next offering? Will there be anything left to contribute to what may prove to be an even greater cause than the former one? Worse still, what’s to prevent my generosity from creating a financial crisis of my own? After all, an unexpected downturn in the market could put me in the position of being the next person who&rsquo...Read More

Why is it that we are so quick and easily inclined to take credit for what God has done? Of course, I know the answer. Sins such as pride, arrogance, selfish ambition, combined with an ignorance of the antecedence of divine grace, all converge to make it feel natural. If we are to avoid falling into this horrific trap, we must remind ourselves often that God is always antecedent; his gracious work in us always precedes and makes possible whatever work we in turn do for o...Read More

It takes great strength and maturity not to respond in kind when one is slandered and maliciously maligned. If ever there were a knee-jerk reaction that feels justified, it comes in our response to those who without ground or reason spread lies about us and question our integrity behind the scenes. It seems well within our rights to give vent to the anger in our souls and to "let ‘em have it"! No one knew this better than the apostle Paul, the victim of repeated m...Read More

We live in an age of angry atheism; not simply a casual and indifferent disregard for the existence of God but a militant opposition to all things religious. Most are by now aware (and sick of hearing about) such folk as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. What should be our response, if any? Do we simply ignore them, confident that in time they will fade away as have other skeptics in centuries past? Fade away they will, but I belie...Read More

It had to have stung more than a little bit when Paul received word that people were accusing him of reliance on mere human tactics and a this-worldly power, while largely abandoning the resources of the Holy Spirit. Let's not forget that Jesus was the object of an even more scurrilous charge. The religious leaders of his day insisted that the power in his life that accounted for healing of the sick and casting out of demons was not that of the Spirit but of Satan himsel...Read More

 The Christian world is all abuzz about leadership these days. Take a look at any list of best-selling books and you'll find at least three or four of the top ten that are concerned with some aspect of leadership, whether in identifying the essence of the good and successful sort or in warning of the bad. It's the latter that I'd like to briefly address in this meditation. I'm sickened, as I'm sure you are, by the almost daily barrage of news concerning either the ...Read More

As I've said many times, 2 Corinthians is a manual for Christian leadership. Paul would probably not have expressed it in precisely those terms, but much of his effort in this letter is designed to identify for the Corinthians the true nature of spiritual, God-given authority as over against the self-aggrandizing agenda of those who passed themselves off as "apostles" of Christ. The Corinthians had been duped. They had been deceived by a band of intruders whose ultimate...Read More

Some people live for the opportunity to flaunt their skills and to speak of their multiple accomplishments. They seize every opportunity to redirect conversation from what they believe are less important people and trivial matters to a focus on themselves, be it their success or fame or status in the community. They are not in the least hesitant to speak of their credentials and are quick to cite the educational degrees they've earned and the gold plaques for distinguish...Read More

The familiar saying, "It ain't boasting if you can do it," is not only grammatically wrong; it is profoundly dumb. Boasting is proudly drawing attention to oneself by claiming credit for some accomplishment. It is the self-centered attempt to elicit from others praise of oneself for having attained some goal or having measured up to an acknowledged standard. It does not cease to be boasting simply because it's true. If you can't do it and you boast, you lie. If you can d...Read More

Few people can maintain a godly balance between sarcasm and sincerity. The latter is all too often swallowed up and eclipsed by the former. The apostle Paul was a notable exception to that general rule. The sarcasm of the apostle is quite evident in the opening words of 2 Corinthians 11. There he writes, "I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me!" (2 Cor. 11:1). Paul was probably accused by his opponents of being a "fool" whom the Corinthia...Read More

I'd like to conduct an experiment. I want you to think about your local church, regardless of its denominational affiliation or lack thereof. Do you have it in mind? Are you ready? O.K. Now, what's the first word that comes to mind? Take a moment. Don't be in a rush. I wish it were possible to compile a list of the many answers to my question. I'm sure it would be quite instructive and enlightening, perhaps even alarming. Words such as healthy, sick, vibrant, languishin...Read More

I want to be a person known for one thing. Although I'm an author, it matters little if people buy my books. Although I'm a speaker, it matters little if they hear what I say. What ultimately matters, what is of preeminent importance, is that I be a person known for "a sincere and pure devotion to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:3). I can't begin to describe the effect these simple words have had on me of late. Perhaps it comes from getting older. The more one sees and experi...Read More

I fear the corruption of my sincere and pure devotion to Christ. So should you. To think that you are immune from the deceptive tactics of the enemy is both arrogant and dangerous. Paul feared that some of the Corinthians had been duped, or were on the verge of it. That is why he speaks so energetically of his jealous concern for them and the state of their souls. There's nothing inconsistent with standing firm in my faith in Christ and rejoicing in the assurance of my ...Read More

Our pluralistic, consumer driven society is all about choices, options, and diversity. If you don't like what you see, be patient; another version, an updated edition, a new and improved alternative will soon appear. This is often the case in certain expressions of contemporary "Christianity" (so-called). Don't like the Jesus of evangelical, orthodox biblical faith? No problem. There are plenty of other Jesus's to choose from. There's the liberal Jesus, the liberation J...Read More

When one first reads 2 Corinthians 11:7-12, it sounds outlandish, virtually incomprehensible. Paul preached the gospel of God in Corinth for free. He refused to accept payment for his ministry in that city. He labored tirelessly with his hands to support himself so that he need never take up an offering after proclaiming the truth. And they accused him of committing a sin in doing so! As I said, outlandish and incomprehensible! But before we delve into this remarkable s...Read More

One of the things I learned about my wife on our first date (October, 1970) was that she didn't believe in a personal Devil. Having been raised in a liberal, mainline denominational church, she rarely if ever heard the gospel proclaimed while numerous biblical truths were routinely mocked and denied, Satan's existence being one. Whether or not one believes that a literal, personal spiritual being called Satan actually exists is dependent on one's view of the inspiration ...Read More

Before departing from Ephesus, the apostle Paul gathered to himself the Elders of the church and spoke words of encouragement, exhortation, and stern warning. The latter proved to be prophetic. "I know that after my departure," said Paul, "fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them" (Acts 20:29-30). It's simply stunning to think that from within...Read More

Some have struggled to reconcile Proverbs 29:4 ("Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself") with Proverbs 29:5 ("Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes"). But there's no contradiction here. On most occasions, when a fool speaks, keep your mouth shut. There are times, though, albeit rare, when an answer is essential. Evidently Paul was faced with just such a situation in his relationship with the Corinthians. H...Read More

Reading 2 Corinthians 11:21-33 leaves me breathless. Even more important, it leaves me embarrassed and ashamed. It reminds me of those many occasions when people have asked me to share my spiritual journey or perhaps themselves proceeded to recite what they consider my accomplishments in life and my achievements in ministry. Awards I've won. Pulpits I've filled. Books I've written. Places I've traveled. People I've known. Money I've raised. Sermons I've preached. Endorse...Read More

The first time I can remember being struck repeatedly by an instrument was in the fifth grade at Fannin Elementary School in Midland, Texas (yes, my father spanked me, but always with his open hand). Mr. Holmes, my teacher, was a short, but powerful man, who seemed at times to relish the opportunity to discipline rowdy young boys like me. And yes, we certainly deserved it (or at least I did). Mr. Hensley, my seventh-grade shop instructor and coach in all sports, had his...Read More

In the aftermath of 9/11 and with the ever-increasing price of gasoline, traveling has become something of a hassle. Increased air fares, long security lines that often move at a snail's pace, overcrowded flights, delayed flights, canceled flights, well, you get the picture. I must confess that on a couple of occasions I've lost my patience at such inconveniences, although I've tried not to direct my displeasure toward ticket agents and flight attendants who have no cont...Read More

Caricatures are hard to shake. Once people have an image of someone indelibly printed in their minds, not even the facts can dislodge it. As a student of Jonathan Edwards (1703-58) I've seen this first hand. Ask the man on the street (or even the person in the pew) about Edwards and they'll immediately mention his sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" and how stern, negative, and condemning a personality he must have been. Of course, anyone who has spent time rea...Read More

We are all pretty adept at avoiding embarrassing topics. Most people have learned the art of maneuvering a conversation away from anything that might show them in a bad light or disclose their incompetence. And should it happen that some shameful item is noted, we're also pretty good at explaining it away or justifying it to protect our public image. Anything to save face! So what are we to make of Paul's statement in 2 Corinthians 11:30 where he declares, "If I must bo...Read More

In the late spring of 2008, news erupted and spread like wildfire that a "heaven-sent healing revival" had broken out in Lakeland, Florida, through the ministry of a young, fully-tattooed evangelist named Todd Bentley. As I write this meditation, the meetings have continued unabated for four months. During this time I've received hundreds of e-mails and telephone calls asking for my opinion of the "revival" and my assessment of Bentley. Since I have neither personally m...Read More

As I read the Bible I've often tried to envision myself in the position of certain characters, especially those who experienced profound supernatural encounters with the Lord. How would I have reacted? Would I have been puffed up with an inflated sense of my own importance? Or would I have felt crushed by the immediate disclosure of my own comparative insignificance? Or would I, preferably, have been so captivated by the brilliance of God's glory that thinking of myself ...Read More

What are we to make of people who speak so casually (if not flippantly) about multiple heavenly visitations that involve conversations with angels, apostles, and even Jesus? Let me be clear about one thing. I have no biblical or theological grounds for concluding that Paul's translation into the third heaven was a singular event in the history of the church, as if to suggest that no one else in any other era has ever experienced a similar encounter. But I'm more than a l...Read More

Most people spend their lives worried sick that others will not think highly enough of them. So they disguise their weaknesses. They magnify their strengths. They labor not to give offense. Much of their personality and relational style is far from natural, but has been carefully crafted to elicit the approval and praise of those whose respect they covet. The apostle Paul, to say the least, was a bird of a different feather. One of his greatest fears was that people wou...Read More

It seems reasonable, does it not, that an experience of the magnitude Paul describes in vv. 1-4 would serve to subdue and perhaps even eradicate sinful impulses from his soul? How could sin possibly continue to exert its influence in the heart of a person who saw and heard the things Paul did? Surely anyone who has been blessed with such a stunning privilege as was Paul would forever cease to sin. Surely anyone who heard such transcendently glorious things as fell on the...Read More

As noted in the previous meditation, there are four broad categories in which most of the interpretations of Paul's thorn have fallen. We now turn our attention to the two most popular (and likely) views. Many take the view of Chrysostom, a famous preacher of the fourth century. He was the first to suggest that the thorn is simply a reference to all the enemies of the gospel who opposed and persecuted Paul during his evangelistic and theological labors. Alexander the co...Read More

Feeling weak today? Good. Yes, that's right, good! I'm not talking about your weakness for chocolate or alcohol or your weakness for sexual lust or any such thing. The weakness I have in mind is not sin. It has nothing to do with your refusal to obey God or your propensity for jealous rage or greed or your disinclination to forgive someone who betrayed you. The apostle Paul would never boast in wickedness or gladly acquiesce to evil in any form (cf. 2 Cor. 12:9-10). Wea...Read More

God loved the apostle Paul. Yet God sovereignly orchestrated his painful thorn in the flesh and then declined to remove it, notwithstanding Paul's passionate prayer that he be healed. We are not apostles. Yet, as his children, no less so than Paul, God loves us too. We don't know the nature of Paul's thorn, but each of us has undoubtedly suffered in a similar way, and some considerably worse. We, like Paul, have prayed incessantly to be healed. Or perhaps knowing of a l...Read More

Some time ago I met with a former student of mine who was considering leaving his church. One of the leaders had openly slandered him and called his character, as well as his theology, into question. He asked for my advice. Knowing so little of the situation, and not being able to hear the other side of the story, I was reduced to directing his attention to Paul's counsel in Romans 12:18 - "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all." We explored ...Read More

I have to admit that at times I find myself losing patience with the Corinthians. In more honest moments, I'm flat out sick of them. Although centuries removed and without ever having met them, I still find them more than a little intolerable. How Paul was able to endure their ingratitude and arrogance, not to mention their suspicion of his integrity and intentions, is beyond me. Here again, in vv. 14-18, we encounter yet another inexcusable and groundless charge agains...Read More

2 Corinthians is a vivid, often painful portrayal of the courage, honesty, and vulnerability of the apostle Paul. More so than in any of his other letters, in 2 Corinthians we hear his heart beat, we feel his passions, we are put in touch with his deepest fears and longings and loves. If one is looking for a paradigm of pastoral sensitivity and strength, of unyielding commitment to truth and purity together with compassion and profound concern for his converts, this is t...Read More

We've had several opportunities in our study of 2 Corinthians to witness the destructive presence in that ancient city of what has been called triumphalism. For the sake of those who may have forgotten what the term means, it has in view, among other things, an over-realized eschatology in which the blessings of the age to come are presumptuously claimed as a spiritual entitlement in the present day. Along with this are an aversion to suffering as something beneath the d...Read More

One of the greatest problems we face in the church today is the number of truly born again believers who struggle with the assurance of their salvation. They are burdened with fears that they may have committed the unpardonable sin or that their daily failures indicate the absence of saving grace. Their consciences are tormented by the lingering memory of a tainted past. Anxiety eats away at their hearts like a corrosive acid. They are desperate for some word that will b...Read More

There are several ways to measure Christian maturity, but perhaps none so revealing as how we respond to the demands of God when we're down. All too often we use our pain to justify sin. We appeal to how badly we've been treated or victimized or point to what we regard as injustice in order to ignore or evade our ethical responsibility. I don't know whether the Corinthians fell prey to this temptation or took the moral high ground, but Paul wasn't about to let them off ...Read More

We have come to the final verse of this remarkable New Testament epistle, and I am faced with a monumental, two-fold, task. On the one hand, I cannot (and do not want to) avoid saying something about the triune portrayal of God that Paul provides. The doctrine of God simply cannot be dismissed as theoretical or irrelevant. We are talking about God, are we not? On the other hand, there is profound practical encouragement to be gained from what Paul says that our great tr...Read More

The day after I wrote the 99th meditation in this series of studies on 2 Corinthians, I was driving north on I-35 from Oklahoma City to Kansas City, a five hour journey. To help pass the time, I decided to listen to the reading of the English Standard Version of the New Testament on CD. It seemed only appropriate that I start with 2 Corinthians. I can't recall how long it took to get through the letter, but it was somewhere in the neighborhood of forty-five minutes. As I...Read More

Does 1 Cor. 3:15 Teach the Doctrine of Purgatory?Read More

The apostle Paul describes how he is careful to be self-disciplined and to bring his body into subjection 'lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.' Does this word translated -disqualified? (NASB) suggest that Paul feared losing his salvation. Once again, as we see also in Rom. 11:22, it may be that Paul is echoing a theme found elsewhere in his letters and throughout the NT, namely, that ultimate salvation is dependent on persever...Read More

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and the Role of Women in the ChurchRead More

1 John 3:9 and the Doctrine of PerseveranceRead More

1 Kings 22:19-23 (2 Chron. 18:18-22)Read More

1 Timothy 1:18-20 And the Security of the BelieverRead More

1 Timothy 3:2,12 and "The Husband of One Wife"Read More

2 Timothy 2:11-13 Can A True Believer Deny Jesus?Read More

What does Paul mean when he refers to the possibility of receiving the grace of God "in vain"? See also Gal. 2:2; Phil. 2:16; 1 Thess. 3:5 (cf. 1 Cor. 15:2). Some suggested answers:   1.         Perhaps he is urging them not to forfeit the grace of salvation which they had earlier received. In other words, it is an exhortation to persevere, to avoid apostasy. On this view, Paul would be implying that a born-again believer ca...Read More

Repentance, Baptism, and the Forgiveness of Sins: A Study of Acts 2:38Read More

Acts 15:14-17 and The Rebuilding of David's TabernacleRead More

Ephesians 4:7-10 and Christ's DescentRead More

Galatians 2:16 Justification and the Faithfulness of ChristRead More

Galatians 5:2-4 Can a Christian "Fall from Grace?"Read More

What was the "sin" of those demons referred to in 2 Pt. 2:4 and Jude 6 (and poss. 1 Pt. 3:18-20) for which they are now confined in hell? This "sin" was not their original rebellion, for why, then, would only some be confined and not all? It can't be that only the more wicked were permanently confined, for Satan, the most wicked of all, is still free. The context in both 2 Pt. 4 and Jude 6 links this "sin" with the flood of Noah (cf. 1 Pt. 3:18-20). This takes us back to...Read More

Hebrews 6:4-6 and the Possibility of ApostasyRead More

Hebrews 10:26-31 and the Possibility of ApostasyRead More

Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 and the "Fall" of SatanRead More

Baptism and Salvation: A Study of John 3:5 Part OneRead More

Baptism and Salvation: A Study of John 3:5 Part Two Read More

John 3:16 and the Love of GodRead More

John 15:1-6 And the Security of the BelieverRead More

The Gift of the Holy Spirit A Study of John 20:22Read More

Matthew 7:1-6 Judging OthersRead More

Matthew 12:22-32 and Blasphemy of the Holy SpiritRead More

The Antecedent God: A Study of Philippians 2:12-13Read More

Who are the Angels in Revelation 2-3?Read More

Was Jesus Appointed to be The Son of God? A Study of Romans 1:3-4Read More

Deciphering Difficult Texts: Romans 7:14-25Read More

Romans 9:13 "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated"Read More

Romans 9:22 "Vessels of Wrath Prepared for Destruction"Read More

Romans 11:22 Can A True Believer be "Cut Off" from Christ?Read More

Romans 14:15 (1 Cor. 8:7-13) What does it mean to "Destroy" a Christian?Read More

A.            The Relevance of the Psalms In his commentary on the Psalms (Word, 1986), Don Williams describes several aspects of the Psalter that are especially relevant to the church today: (1)           Renewal in Worship. The Psalms model praise and devotion as they flow from the hearts of people who know the living God. They meditate upon God's majesty and resp...Read More

A continuation of part one . . . E.             The Groupings of the Psalms The Psalter is divided into five books: 1-41, 42-72, 73-89, 90-106, 107-150. Most believe the five books were created to parallel the five books of Moses (Pentateuch). Each of the five books concludes with a doxology (cf. 41:13). Each of the five books also shows a preference for a particular version of the divine name. Book I &n...Read More

A.            C. S. Lewis on the Problem of Praise in the Psalms Understanding the struggle with the concept of praise which C. S. Lewis had on his initial encounter with the Psalms will help us appreciate this central focus of the Psalter. The following passage is taken from Lewis' book, Reflections on the Psalms. "When I first began to draw near to belief in God and even for some time after it had been given to m...Read More

It was Solomon who said, "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight" (Prov. 15:8). Although God is spirit, if he had a face he would display one of two looks when people pray. According to Prov. 15:8 God frowns in disgust when the wicked hypocritically try to manipulate him with their sacrifices. But he has a beaming, glowing smile of indescribable delight whenever his children pray. Why? It certainly isn't be...Read More

Absalom was David’s third son. His second son, Chileab, is never mentioned after reference to his birth and the assumption is that he died early on. David’s first-born son was Amnon. The story of how Amnon died is a sordid one. Amnon raped his half-sister, Tamar, and Absalom, Tamar’s brother, swore revenge. It took two years but finally Absalom arranged for Amnon to be killed. Fearing punishment, Absalom went into exile for three years. When he finally ...Read More

It is difficult to live in this world of corruption, abuse, and mindless cruelty and not experience a recurring spiritual nausea. When one witnesses the senseless injustice in the world and the prosperity of those who are responsible for it, nausea turns to indignation and righteous rage. I know a little of what the psalmist meant when he cried out, "How long, O Lord, how long?" Sometimes the question, "How long?" does not spring from a speculative curiosity that says, "...Read More

David lists ten characteristics of the person who will "abide" in God's tent and "dwell" on his holy hill. (1)???????????????????? First, this person walks with integrity (15:2).   (2)???????????????????? Second, this individual works righteousness (15:2). This is the person who actually does what is righteous, rather than merely talks about it. Doing what is right and lawful and good and honest is eminently pleasing to God, whether it be in private or public, in...Read More

The power of the Word of God is perhaps nowhere better seen than in Psalm 19. There we find six declarations that tell us what the Bible is and does: 6 nouns, 6 adjectives, 6 verbs. The focus is on the identity, the quality, and the function of Scripture. First, "the law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul" (v. 7a). identity - "law" = lit., instruction, in whatever form God sends it; quality - "perfect" = whole, complete, lacking defect of any kind; function -...Read More

The Agony and the ExtacyRead More

Taking Heart in GodRead More

When Your Confidence CratersRead More

Go Hard for GodRead More

The Joy of ForgivenessRead More

Lord of the Stork and Rock BadgerRead More

The Magnificence of God's SovereigntyRead More

[With this article I begin a new series of short, daily meditations on selected Psalms.] In most instances I like to leave myself a little theological wiggle room, a loophole, if you will, a measure of flexibility that affords me the opportunity of qualifying some statement that I've made. In fact, it's often the failure to provide nuance and clarification to our declarations that gets us in trouble or boxes us in to a position that on more mature reflection clearly cal...Read More

r While in England in February of 2007, I had the privilege of speaking yet again at the Life in the Spirit conference. During one of his messages, fellow-speaker Dave Smith made passing reference to my book, Pleasures Evermore, and articulated in a most refreshing and poignant way its principal theme. "When it comes to living a successful Christian life," said Dave, "and resisting the power of temptation, simply saying ‘No! No! No!' won't suffice. We must learn t...Read More

Dr Absalom was David's third son. His second son, Chileab, is never mentioned after reference to his birth and the assumption is that he died early on. David's first-born son was Amnon. The story of how Amnon died is a sordid one. Amnon raped his half-sister, Tamar, and Absalom, Tamar's brother, swore revenge. It took two years but finally Absalom arranged for Amnon to be killed. Fearing punishment, Absalom went into exile for three years. When he finally returned to J...Read More

The message trumpeted by the world, the flesh, and the devil is relatively simple. It's often packaged in different shapes and sounds, but the underlying theme is monotonously the same. Like a reverberating echo in an empty cave, the refrain is incessant, unending, and unchanging: "There is more joy in illicit sex than in Jesus. There is more joy in goodies and gold than in Jesus. There is more joy in power, pride, and a drug-induced high than in Jesus. There is more joy...Read More

Dr Listen to Solomon's words in Proverbs 15:8 - "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him" (or,"is His delight" [NAS]). Although God is spirit, if he had a face he would display one of two looks when people pray. This text suggests that God frowns in disgust when the wicked hypocritically try to manipulate him with their sacrifices. But he has a beaming, glowing smile of indescribable delight whenever...Read More

Dr It's difficult to live in a world of corruption, abuse, and mindless cruelty and not experience a recurring spiritual nausea. When one witnesses senseless injustice and the prosperity of those responsible for it, nausea turns to indignation and righteous rage. I know a little of what the psalmist meant when he cried out, "How long, O Lord, how long?" Sometimes the question, "How long?" doesn't spring from a speculative curiosity that says, "I want to know when," but...Read More

Dr Depression is an ugly word, and difficult to define. We've all faced it, some worse than others. Even if we don't understand it, we know what it feels like. The confidence that God is behind you has vanished. The courage to face anything life might throw in your path has given way to the horrifying suspicion that God has forgotten who and where you are. Where is he now when you need him most? Where is he when your life is enveloped in darkness and you can't find the...Read More

Dr The psalms come to us in a variety of spiritual colors. Some are glorious, green, glad-hearted hymns of praise. Others are filled with bright blue, unrelenting gratitude. There are psalms of confidence, of remembrance, wisdom psalms, kingship psalms, and even the crimson of imprecatory psalms that call for God's judgment against the wicked. But nothing can compare with the dismal grey of the psalms of lament. These psalms are "the polar opposite of the hymn on the e...Read More

Dr Psalm 15 is short (only five verses) and to the point: "O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; who does not put...Read More

Dr Rock stars rarely age well. The Rolling Stones are a case in point. Often called The Strolling Bones, and not without cause (!), this once energetic and controversial sixties group was actually invited to perform during the Super Bowl halftime show only a few years ago. Of all their many hits, the one that lingers most in my memory is the grammatically torturous, "I Can't Get No Satisfaction"! As I type it, Microsoft Word faithfully reminds me of its error with that...Read More

Dr Look up and listen, for "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork" (Ps. 19:1). What a way to begin the psalm that C. S. Lewis called "the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world" (Reflections on the Psalms, 63). The grand sweep of Psalm 19 is nothing short of stunning. It begins with the skies above (vv. 1-6), then moves to the Scriptures below (vv. 7-11), and finally to the prayerful meditation...Read More

Dr I have written in a variety of places (both books and articles) on Psalm 19, so I trust you'll indulge me yet one more time as I reflect on this magnificent portrayal of the beauty and power of God's Word. The following observations are adapted from my book Pleasures Evermore (Chapter Nine). In Psalm 19:7-11 we find six declarations that tell us what the Bible is and does: six nouns, six adjectives, six verbs. The focus is on the identity (the nouns), the quality (t...Read More

Dr If you've never given much thought to Psalm 22, there's no better place to begin than with the following comment of Charles Spurgeon: "For plaintive expressions uprising from unutterable depths of woe we may say of this Psalm, there is none like it. It is the photograph of our Lord's saddest hours, the record of his dying words, the lachrymatory of his last tears, the memorial of his expiring joys. David and his afflictions may be here in a very modified sense, but,...Read More

Dr Perhaps the most pervasive theme in all of Scripture is God's passion for God. No, that's not a misprint. Many would have preferred that I say, "God's passion for you," but if God isn't first and foremost committed to himself and the pursuit and praise of his own glory, his love for you wouldn't amount to much at all. But let me return to this notion of God's commitment to God. On what biblical grounds do I dare make what appears, at first glance, to be an outrageou...Read More

Dr Aside from John 3:16, Psalm 23 may well be the most famous and oft-quoted passage in all of Holy Scripture. I've seen it printed on greeting cards, embossed on plaques, written on T-shirts, sewn into quilts, and even parts of it have appeared on bumper stickers of cars! I attribute this to its remarkable and powerfully reassuring portrait of God as both the good shepherd who cares for and protects his sheep and the gracious host who provides for their every need. Go...Read More

I’ve always been intrigued by Psalm 27:4, if for no other reason than that it is the last thing one would expect from David, at least when looked at from a purely human perspective. Given his circumstances, this single-minded, undistracted commitment to gaze on God’s beauty seems out of place.   I can’t believe I just wrote that! It shows how little I know of God’s beauty that I should think, if only even for a moment, that anything could j...Read More

He should have known better. He never should have stayed at home alone while his army was fighting in the field. He never should have lingered late at night on his rooftop. He never should have set his eyes on that beautiful lady. He never should have inquired about who she was, nor should he have sent for her, nor should he have slept with her. He should have known better. But King David sinned and Bathsheba conceived.   He should have known better. He never shou...Read More

Friends fail us. Stocks plummet. Health is unreliable. A promise is broken. Need I say more? The fact is, there is nothing, no one, anywhere in which/whom we can place our unqualified trust and be assured it/they will not let us down.   So what’s a person to do? If no one is infallibly worthy of our unquestioning trust, where do we turn? To whom do we ultimately look? In what do we put our hope?   For anyone who reads the Psalms, the answer is obvious...Read More

What does it mean to seek after God? How does one pursue the Almighty? Let’s explore Psalm 34 and take note of how David did it. There are six things I want you to consider as essential in pursuing God.   First, celebrate God (vv. 1-3)! Observe the passion and intensity of David’s worship.   “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad...Read More

How is one supposed to respond to verses in the Psalms like these?   “Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you” (Psalm 5:10).   “Let them be put to shame and dishonor who seek after my life! Let them be turned back and disappointed who devise evil against me! Let them be like chaff before the wind, with the ange...Read More

I love the Psalms. No book in all of Scripture has ministered to me as powerfully as this collection of inspired prayers and praise. Any suggestion that they are less than the inspired Word of God is deeply troubling to me. So how are we to make sense of these imprecatory outbursts in which the psalmist pleads for God’s wrath and destruction of the wicked?   Let me make several suggestions that might help.   (1) We should remember that in Deut. 27-28 ...Read More

Let me conclude our study of these unsettling psalms with a few words of practical application taken from my book, The Singing God (pp. 169-75).   Although it may sound contradictory, we are to “love” those whom we “hate”. We love our enemies by doing good to them (Luke 6:27). We love them by providing food when they are hungry and water when they thirst (Romans 12:20). We love our enemies by blessing them when they persecute and oppress us...Read More

I am an unashamed, passionate advocate of Christian Hedonism. I’m sure there are some who think that’s akin to saying that I enjoy eating fried ice or drawing round squares. After all, aren’t Christianity and Hedonism mutually exclusive? This isn’t the place to explain why they aren’t. I’ve done that elsewhere at some length (see my books, Pleasures Evermore and One Thing, and of course, John Piper’s classic defense in his book, ...Read More

What is one to do when all you’ve had for breakfast is tears, followed by a late night snack of sorrow? The answer of the psalmist sounds as strange as the question: Preach to your soul! Take yourself in hand, look yourself in the eyes, and preach this message: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Ps. 42:5,11; 43:5).   If the sentiment of Psal...Read More

Ein feste burg ist unser Gott! Say what? Well, that’s how Martin Luther would have written it in his famous hymn:   “A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing; He, amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing.”   There can be no doubt but that Luther’s sturdy, unshakeable, unflappable confidence in God as his refuge, his strength, his mighty, impenetrable fortress is what ultimately accounted for what he was able to accom...Read More

This psalm has a special message for several groups of people.   First, Psalm 51 is for those who have never come to grips with the horror of human sin and the magnitude of divine grace. Often grace becomes meaningless, and certainly less than "amazing", because we lose sight of the depths of our depravity. David helps us on both counts by describing in graphic detail the reality of his sin and the breath-taking glory of forgiving grace.   Second, this psal...Read More

Countless Christians feel spiritually paralyzed by the lingering stain of sin. Neither therapy nor religious formulas, not good intentions or good deeds, can erase the vivid memory of their transgression(s) or bring cleansing to the defiling sense of guilt. The oppressive weight of their failure(s) is virtually suffocating.   Thank God for Psalm 51! It is a refreshing and heart-warming reminder of the hope of forgiveness. But it’s even more than that. David ...Read More

Dr On more than one occasion I've been asked: "Sam, why do you lift your hands when you worship?" My answer is two-fold. First, I raise my hands when I pray and praise because I have explicit biblical precedent for doing so. I don't know if I've found all biblical instances of it, but consider this smattering of texts.  "So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands" (Psalm 63:4). "To you, O LORD, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me,...Read More

Dr Some Christians would like us to believe that their faith in God is invulnerable to challenges from without. They act and talk as if their faith has never suffered a crisis of any sort, never been stretched or strained almost to the point of breaking. My opinion of such folk is that they are either pathetically naïve, dangerously dishonest, or perfect. You simply can't live long in this world and not experience crises in spiritual confidence every once in a whi...Read More

"O God, Thou art my God; I shall seek Thee earnestly Some people are terrified of appearing needy. Obsessed with their public image and how they are perceived, they put on a false front of self-sufficiency and self-reliance. Not David! That's one of the things I admire most in the author of so many of these psalms. He is utterly unashamed to acknowledge before others his weakness and dependency on God. Typical is this cry of desperation in Psalm 63:1. "O God, you are ...Read More

avid's confidence is also seen in Psalm 86, where he appeals t My book on prayer, Reaching God's Ear (Tyndale House, 1988), has been out of print for over a decade. When the few who purchased a copy took a look at the cover, they immediately asked me: "Is that you in the picture?" No, but I have to admit, the man sitting in the chair did bear a striking resemblance to what I looked like in 1988. Those of you who've seen the cover also know that there is a young boy sta...Read More

r I was greatly tempted to quietly skip over Psalm 88. But then I realized that there are many reading these meditations who can identify with the palpable sadness of Heman, its author, and wonder if anybody else has ever experienced the depths of despondency it expresses. This has been called the darkest, most depressing, and saddest of all psalms. Unlike the other psalms of lament, this one does not conclude with praise or a declaration of joy or hope for renewed con...Read More

An anonymous psalmist affirms for himself and us all that "he w Not too far from the house in which I was raised in Shawnee, Oklahoma, there was an area called Broadway Woods. It would hardly classify as a forest, but to a nine-year-old boy it seemed as big and vast as the deepest, darkest jungles of Africa. I loved playing in Broadway Woods. My friends and I would build little hideouts and secret meeting places there, using whatever material we could scrounge up. We'd...Read More

r I don't know about you, but I'm weary of the worship wars that have wreaked havoc in so many churches. It's sad to look back over the past twenty-five years or so at the damage and division that have resulted from this internecine conflict. Should we use traditional hymns or contemporary songs? Which do you prefer, a robed choir or praise team? Baldwin piano or acoustical guitar? Liberty or liturgy? Standing or sitting? Formal or free? Long or short? Hands raised or a...Read More

Dr I can't see as well as I used to, especially without my glasses. There are times when I don't hear everything going on around me. And I must admit that I have a finicky sense of taste. But I'm proud to say that I have a marvelous sense of smell. And believe it or not, so too does God! Of course, I'm speaking anthropomorphically when I say that God has a perfect sense of smell. And few things smell as good to him as gratitude. In the book of Leviticus God gave speci...Read More

Dr Were ever more beautiful words penned than these? "He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us" (Ps. 103:10-12). Consider for a moment how we "deal" with others. We keep fresh in our minds their injustices toward us. We nurture the...Read More

Dr One of the greatest obstacles to experiencing intimacy with God is our knowledge of God's knowledge of us. That may sound strange, so I suggest you read it again. Let me explain by asking a question. Why do you hesitate to draw near to God? Why do you and I strive to keep God at arm's length, especially after we've sinned? There are, to be sure, many reasons and thus a variety of ways of answering the question. But let me suggest one that I have found to be most pre...Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (1) "Does your Church have an Angel?" (Revelation 2:1)Read More

Dr When was the last time you gave a second thought (much less a first) to a donkey slaking its thirst in a muddy stream? I doubt if you've spent much time pondering the fir trees that provide a home for the stork, or the rocks that serve as a refuge for the badger. Many Christians picture God as distant and uninvolved in the routine, trivial, uneventful affairs of life. This especially holds true when it comes to the phenomena of nature. Surely the God of heaven and e...Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (2) "Loving Jesus in Ephesus" (Revelation 2:1)Read More

Dr According to legend, an Austrian bailiff by the name of Gessler issued an order requiring all citizens of Switzerland to bow to a hat that he had set atop a pole in the main square of the town of Altdorf. When William Tell refused, he was arrested. Gessler knew of Tell's expertise with the crossbow and struck a deal with him. If Tell could shoot an apple off the top of his son's head, Gessler would set him free. As you know, Tell's arrow was perfectly on target. Aft...Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (3) ???Christ in and over his Church?? (Revelation 2:1)Read More

When was the last time you thanked God for being able When was the last time you thanked God simply for being able? I can't imagine anything more disheartening and depressing than believing in a God who lacks the power to fulfill his purposes, whose energy wanes in the heat of battle or whose strength diminishes in a moment of crisis. Good intentions notwithstanding, if God can't carry out his plans and can't fulfill his goals and can't keep his promises, I'm not sure I...Read More

Dr Psalm 119 has long been an enigma to many Christians, especially those who testify to boredom and confusion when they read God's Word. The attitude of the psalmist is baffling to them. He speaks repeatedly of a joy and unparalleled delight and a spiritual exhilaration when he reads and meditates on Scripture, affections that are largely foreign to their experience. So here's what I propose. Quickly read this meditation and then slowly read the psalm in its entirety....Read More

"But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared" (Ps If the title to this meditation strikes you as a contradiction in terms, read on. Let me begin by asking a simple question: "What do you fear most?" As for myself, the first things that come to mind, in no particular order, are squash, wasps, and the possibility of no baseball in heaven. Of course, I realize that I can hold my nose when I eat squash and wait for my taste buds to recover. I assume, as well,...Read More

Dr Psalm 139 is all about God, simply and solely. If that doesn't interest you, I doubt that you'll find it of much help in life. That it might not interest you is, of course, tragic. That it ought to interest you goes without saying. But let me say it anyway. Better still, let Charles Spurgeon say it: "There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so de...Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (4) ???I Know Your Works!?? (Revelation 2:2a)Read More

Dr Some feel threatened by the sovereignty of God. They regard it as an infringement on their personal autonomy or fear that it will reduce humans to mere automatons, incapable of meaningful and morally significant choices. Others, yours truly included, cannot imagine life apart from the comforting, reassuring, rock-solid confidence that flows from knowing that God governs all things, from the exalted affairs of heaven to the seemingly random rain drops that plummet to...Read More

Dr I had a choice today about what to each for lunch. As I drove west on 135th Street, I was faced with the decision of whether to turn left into the Sonic drive-in or continue straight ahead to Subway for a roast beef sandwich on wheat bread. Nutrition would be better served by the latter, but the allure of a chicken strip dinner with fries and a Diet Coke ultimately prevailed. Did God know which choice I would make prior to the moment that I made it? If I had chosen ...Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (5) When God Crowns His Own Grace (Rev. 2:2a)Read More

Just when I think I might have God ever so slightly figured out, he pulls a surprise on me that shatters and confuses and discombobulates what little understanding I have of him.   I’m a theologian by trade, so its my responsibility and calling (and joy) in life to do what I can to connect the dots of divine revelation and hope that the resultant picture at least looks vaguely similar to the God I read about in Scripture. But sadly, that picture all too ofte...Read More

We now return to the cave where King David has sought refuge from Saul’s homicidal rage. It’s hard to envision a more bizarre and ironic scene than this, but having dwelt on it in the previous meditation, we now move to the substance of David’s prayer.   “With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him. When my spirit faints within me, you kno...Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (6) The Limits of Love (Revelation 2:2,6)Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (7) For His Name??s Sake (Revelation 2:3)Read More

I suppose there are as many different kinds of prayers spoken prior to eating a meal as there are families who pray. When Melanie and Joanna were young, the greatest problem we faced wasn’t in getting them to pray but in getting them to finish before the food got cold. Neither of them was able to pray for the meal collectively, but insisted on giving thanks for each individual item on the table. They thanked God for the potatoes, the fork, the milk, the salt, the n...Read More

I’ve never witnessed the destruction of my city, place of worship, or been driven from my home by pagan hordes and held captive for seventy years. Neither have you. There are no words to describe the physical, emotional and spiritual devastation of such an experience. So I won’t try. But let’s look on the upside. Try to envision how you would feel upon your release from bondage, together with the opportunity to return home and rebuild your city and chur...Read More

Psalms 148-150 are too lengthy for me to include in the text of this meditation, and too important for any of us to ignore. So I encourage you to open your Bible and read them now. After you are finished, consider these four themes that emerge.   First, worship is a universal privilege. I could have said “obligation”, for worship is a duty we are commanded to fulfill. But I don’t want to give the impression that it is burdensome or oppressive. Ex...Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (8) When Doctrine Isn??t Enough (Revelation 2:4-5)Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (9) Feasting on the Tree of Life (Revelation 2:7)Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (10) Seeing the ???So That?? in Suffering (Revelation 2:8-9)Read More

Suffering comes in many forms and in varying degrees, as the Christians in Smyrna would no doubt testify. But regardless of how it manifests itself, suffering tends to evoke one of two reactions in the soul of the Christian: dependency or disillusionment. One example of the former is found in the apostle Paul’s reaction to a life-threatening incident that brought him to the brink of despair. Rather than yielding to disillusionment with God he was driven to depende...Read More

As I sit writing this meditation, I need only turn my head slightly to the left and gaze out the window of my hotel room for a stunning view of the Washington Monument in our nation’s capital. Two days earlier, on my way from the airport to the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, I was deeply moved by the site of the Lincoln Memorial, and later that night by the stunning profile of the Capitol building. People react differently when visiting Was...Read More

To whom do you look for strength when life is on the verge of imploding and there seems to be no avenue of escape? In what do you place your trust? On what beliefs have you staked your future? How do you persevere? Unless you’ve experienced an incredibly insulated life, these are questions that cannot be avoided. They were certainly questions racing through the minds of the believers in Smyrna. Their past had been painful and their immediate future didn’t lo...Read More

What I Deserve vs. What I Get The timing of this meditation is significant. I’m writing it on the day before Thanksgiving, 2006. Like most of you, I’ll soon be seated with my family around a table laden with more food than many people will see in a month. Thousands will die today of starvation. Tens of thousands will scrounge for a few kernels of corn or a handful of grain. No, I’m not trying to rob you of joy at this time of year. In fact, I’m ...Read More

By God’s providential design, my wife and I live in Kansas City, Missouri, known as “The City of Fountains.” Before this, we lived in Chicago, “The Windy City” (well, to be more accurate, we lived in Winfield, a suburb of Chicago). Paris, France, is called “The City of Lights” and New York is often described as “The City that Never Sleeps”. We have friends who live in Las Vegas, infamously (but justifiably) referred t...Read More

The letter to the church at Pergamum consists of “the words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword” (Rev. 2:12; more literally, “these things says the one who has the sharp two-edged sword”). When we hear or read of someone who has a “sharp two-edged sword” we typically envision it in his hand, to be wielded either in defense against an on-coming attack or used offensively to slay his enemies. But in the case of Jesus, the sword pro...Read More

There was in the church at Pergamum a strange and unacceptable paradox, an inconsistency that Jesus simply will not tolerate, then or now. Let’s not forget where they lived. Whereas it is true that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19b), Pergamum was especially vulnerable to Satan’s influence. In some sense, as previously noted, this was his city. Pergamum was the center of his authority, the place of his throne, the f...Read More

Although grace is surely amazing, it is also subject to distortion, especially by those who use it to excuse loose and licentious behavior (see Galatians 5:13; Jude 4). The justification comes in a variety of forms. For example: “If all my sins have been forgiven, they are now of little consequence.” Or again: “If I can’t be saved by works, I need not be concerned with their absence in my life.” Still others say: “If Jesus has set...Read More

I suggested in the previous meditation that purity often comes with a hefty price tag. It may cost us “good feelings” and appear to be less than “loving” when we insist on repentance and moral rectitude. There’s no way around the fact that “peace” and “harmony” may suffer when we are committed to living out the ethical implications of the gospel of grace. But, as I said, it’s a price we must be willing to pay. ...Read More

The “white stone” in Revelation 2:17, given to those who “conquer” or “overcome,” has been subjected to as many differing interpretations as have the “two witnesses” of Revelation 11. That doesn’t mean we are hopeless in our efforts to understand what Jesus meant, but it does suggest that we should be cautious and avoid dogmatism, regardless of whichever view we ultimately embrace. Some argue that the white stone sig...Read More

Consider this challenge that I regularly put to myself and now put to you. Recall to mind the early days of your Christian life, perhaps the first year or so after your conversion. Do you remember the zeal for God and fascination with all things biblical you felt in the wake of saving grace? Think back on your evangelistic zeal and the courage you displayed in sharing your faith with unsaved family members and friends. Think back on the time and energy expended in servic...Read More

How tragic, after reading of the splendid qualities in Thyatira, to discover that moral compromise was present in the church. “I have this against you,” said Jesus, “that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols” (Revelation 2:20). John Stott put it bluntly: “In that fair field a poisonous weed was being allowed ...Read More

I’m constantly stunned by the gracious and longsuffering character of our Lord Jesus Christ. Listen to his words in the letter to the church at Thyatira: “I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead” (Revelation 2:21-23a).  What a...Read More

Our Lord clearly states that the casting of Jezebel on a sickbed and the infliction of her children with great tribulation, to the point of physical death itself, will be an unmistakable sign to all that nothing escapes his gaze or slips in beneath the radar, so to speak. But how does Christ’s judgment against the unrepentant reveal to all Christians everywhere that he has exhaustive and altogether accurate knowledge of the hearts and minds of everyone? Look again...Read More

How is it that this woman called “Jezebel” came to exert such incredible power over the lives of Christians in Thyatira? What accounts for the authority she possessed to convince the followers of Jesus to abandon their commitment to ethical purity and engage in sexual immorality and other forms of compromise with the surrounding culture?   There’s no indication that she held an ecclesiastical office. She wasn’t an Elder or Pastor or Apostle...Read More

Much of the Church today is suffering from an advanced case of what I call spiritual osteoporosis. It’s not widespread throughout the “body” of Christ, but is concentrated along the spine. What I have in mind is the Church’s loss of its theological backbone! We see this in any number of ways. For example, some have begun to fudge on the ethical status of homosexuality. Fearful of being labeled “homophobic,” they’ve adopted a &ld...Read More

I know that’s a provocative question, perhaps even incendiary to some of you! But let’s look closely at the promised reward in this letter to the church in Thyatira: “The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He ...Read More

One of the more important lessons I’ve learned through the years, especially when it comes to church life, is that seeing isn’t always believing. I don’t want to sound cynical or pessimistic, but you shouldn’t always trust your eyes. What I’m trying to say is that I’m not as impressed as I used to be when I hear of a church with a surging membership, multi-million dollar budget, expansive facilities, and a reputation for programs, mini...Read More

If the surrounding culture declares that we are alive but Jesus says we are dead (Rev. 3:1), something’s seriously wrong with our standard of success. Our discernment is seriously flawed. Worse still is when we ourselves think we’re alive but in fact are dead. All too often, the criteria by which we judge success and the criteria employed by God are vastly at odds. What constitutes good, effective, Christ-exalting ministry is one thing to the world, even the ...Read More

Let’s get right to the point. This letter to the church in Sardis ought to alert us to the fact that a church can be confident of its place in the community, increasing in membership, energetic in its religious activities, liquid in its financial assets, fervent in its outreach to the broader culture, and yet dead! I fear it is precisely those reading this who say, in response, “Yes, but that’s not us,” who are particularly in jeopardy. It is the...Read More

The last few meditations, I admit, have been somewhat negative in that I have portrayed the plight of the church (both in the first century and in our day) in pessimistic terms. I’m not apologizing for that, in view of the fact that we have explicit biblical warrant from the text in Revelation 2-3. But it would be a mistake to throw in the towel when it comes to the local church or to conclude that it is irredeemable or that its influence is so minimal as to justi...Read More

The promise to those who conquer continues in Revelation 3:5, a passage that has stirred considerable discussion and controversy. “The one who conquers,” said Jesus, “will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Some are frightened by this or filled with anxiety t...Read More

I’m amazed at how seemingly little things in life can have such a massive impact on other people. Take, for example, when someone remembers your name. Perhaps it’s a person you admire greatly, whom you’ve only met once before, but they instantly smile when they see your face and say, “Hey, Mike, how are you? It’s good to see you again.” You feel affirmed and honored that someone who is well-known and successful actually knows who you a...Read More

One could make a strong case that the letters to Smyrna and Philadelphia are the most important of the seven, for in neither of them do we find a single word of complaint. They both receive unqualified praise and approval. These, then, are truly churches of which Christ heartily approves. What makes this all the more remarkable is the statement by Jesus in Revelation 3:8 that the church in Philadelphia has “but little power” (ESV). This isn’t a rebuke....Read More

I’ve mentioned before that one of my spiritual mentors was often heard to say, “Whatever God requires he provides; whomever God chooses, he changes; and whatever God starts, he finishes.” I’d like to add a fourth: “Whatever God promises, he fulfills.” That’s incredibly reassuring, especially for those who struggle with doubt and uncertainty and the fear that one day, notwithstanding the promises in his Word, God will pull the ru...Read More

Whatever God promises, God fulfills. This marvelous truth puts legs beneath our Lord’s declaration that the door he has opened for us no one can shut (v. 8). But there’s yet more in his promise to the faithful in Philadelphia and therefore more in his promise to you and me:   “Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie – behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and ...Read More

If you’ve ever wondered whether it mattered much to Jesus that you’ve kept the faith and maintained your commitment to him, this promise to the church of Philadelphia should put your fears to rest.   Sadly, today, more attention is given to sensational claims of supernatural exploits than to the routine faithfulness of the average Christian. Simple virtues like integrity, endurance in the face of pain and disappointment, persistence in one’s stru...Read More

The Bible has a remarkable capacity to challenge and overcome our misperceptions about who we are. When we are inclined to think of ourselves as orphans, the biblical text declares that we are the adopted children of God. If we are wracked with guilt, the inspired word reminds us that we are forgiven. The feeling of being stained and soiled by sin is overcome with the realization that we are cleansed by the blood of Christ and clothed in his righteousness. It’s mu...Read More

As mentioned in the previous meditation, Christians often struggle with a sense of identity. They fail to grasp who they are by virtue not merely of creation but especially regeneration and redemption. A failure to embrace our new identity and the privileges and responsibilities that come with it can be devastating. Virtually every assault and accusation of Satan is grounded in his effort to convince us we are not who God, in fact, declares we are. If the enemy can persu...Read More

I’ve lived in eight cities, for each of which I’m profoundly grateful. I was born in Shawnee, Oklahoma, from which we moved when I was ten to settle in Midland, Texas. I attended high school in Duncan, Oklahoma, and went to college in Norman. My wife and I lived in Dallas, Texas, for twelve years, and then moved back to Oklahoma, this time to Ardmore, in 1985. Since then we’ve lived in Kansas City, Chicago, and now again in Kansas City. As I said, I&rs...Read More

“My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand, all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.”   We all sing it, but do we believe it? Admittedly, it’s not easy to bank everything on Christ alone. Our souls long for rest in something immovable. Our minds cry out for certainty in a...Read More

I doubt if anyone reading this meditation has been exempt from betrayal, of one sort or another. One of life’s most painful and disillusioning experiences is putting your confidence in someone who in turn lets you down. Perhaps you’ve shared something and made it perfectly clear that no one else is to know, only to have it become common knowledge by the end of the day. Or you trusted a life-long friend to honor their commitment to you only to discover that wh...Read More

“Sam, are you playing theological tricks on us with that title? Come on. Does it really matter?” Well, let me put it this way: the difference between Jesus as “the eternal Son of God” and Jesus as “Son of the eternal God” is the difference between heaven and hell! Does that answer your question?   Let me illustrate with the story of two individuals who knew well the difference between these two ways of describing Jesus Christ (a...Read More

I doubt one could find words any more confusing and controversial than those uttered by Jesus in Revelation 3:15-16 to the church at Laodicea. Christians have expressed either befuddlement or revulsion, and sometimes both, at what our Lord says to this wayward congregation. Look at it again:   “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out o...Read More

On July 8, 1731, twenty-seven-year-old Jonathan Edwards preached in Boston, Massachusetts, what would become the first of his sermons to be published. Entitled, God Glorified in Man’s Dependence, it was based on 1 Corinthians 1:29-31, a passage in which Paul was concerned that “no human being might boast in the presence of God. He,” wrote Paul, “is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctifi...Read More

If Jesus is in fact “the Amen, the faithful and true witness,” wisdom would demand that we heed his counsel. If he can be counted on not only to confirm God’s purposes (“Amen”) but to speak truth without equivocation (“the faithful and true witness”), we ignore him to our peril. To casually dismiss his evaluation of the state of our souls or turn a deaf ear to his advice on how we might find healing and hope is more than morally ...Read More

Revelation 3:19 is nothing short of shocking. Earlier in v. 16 Jesus expressed disgust towards those in Laodicea, declaring that he is on the verge of vomiting them out of his mouth. Yet now, in v. 19, he affirms his love for them! May I boldly suggest that it is precisely because he loves his people that he refuses to tolerate their lukewarm indifference toward spiritual matters? In other words, the harsh words in this letter, the firm discipline evoked by their backsli...Read More

The foundation for a relationship of passion is a heart of purity. Sin kills intimacy. It comes as no surprise, then, that perhaps the greatest obstacle to a vibrant and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ is the failure or refusal to repent. This accounts for our Lord’s pointed plea to the Laodiceans: “Be zealous and repent” (Rev. 3:19)!   What, exactly, did Jesus have in mind when he called the Laodiceans (and us) to a zealous, immediate, u...Read More

Next to John 3:16, this is perhaps the most famous evangelistic passage in the New Testament. The question is, Should it be? To this lukewarm and backslidden church, Jesus issues this stunning invitation:   “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).   As noted, most people simply assume this is an evangelistic appeal to non-Christ...Read More

“The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” No matter how many times I read this promise, I struggle to believe it. That’s not because I doubt its inspiration or accuracy. Jesus meant what he said and I embrace it. But to think of myself enthroned with Christ is simply more than I can fa...Read More

[This is the first in an extended series of periodical meditations drawn from Paul’s epistle to the Colossians.] One of the reasons we ignore certain statements in Scripture is our misguided belief that they simply don’t apply to us. For example, when the apostle Paul introduces his epistles he typically describes himself as “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (Col. 1:1a; cf. also Eph. 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1). I’...Read More

Following his standard practice, Paul addresses this letter to “the saints” in Christ at Colossae. As you know, “saints” is a precious word that has been sorely perverted. For many people it conjures up images of a painfully thin, sad-faced monastic sort of soul who looks like he’s been sucking on a lemon. Most of you are aware, I hope, that the word translated “saints” was used primarily to describe people set apart or separate...Read More

There is great and glorious encouragement in the fact that Paul begins his letters by blessing his readers with the "grace" of God. This reference to "grace" is more than a standard literary device by which letters were begun. It is a sincere prayer for the release of divine favor and power into the lives of those to whom he writes. It is also significant that at the beginning of Paul's letters he says, "Grace [be] to you," while the blessings at the end say, "Grace [be]...Read More

In the previous meditation we saw that the empowering and abiding presence of divine grace comes to us by means of the Scriptures. But let us not overlook the gift of “peace” which also flows to us “from God our Father” (1:2b). When Paul refers to “peace” he’s not talking about some superficial psychological giddiness that comes from reaping the material comforts of western society (as justifiably grateful we may be for the latt...Read More

This past Christmas I received a red and white, University of Oklahoma, sweater vest from my daughter and her husband. To say that I was profoundly grateful is an understatement. When it came time to express my gratitude, I didn’t address my sentiments to my sister, although she has been extremely generous to me over the years. Nor did I turn to my wife and say, “Honey, this is a wonderful gift. Thank you so much!” I hope you realize why. No one, at le...Read More

There are four critically important things to remember about faith and love as they are described by Paul in Colossians 1:4. First, neither can exist independently of the other. Second, they are by God’s design public virtues, visible expressions of a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Third, faith is only as good as its object. Fourth, and finally, Christian love cannot be selective. Let me briefly explain what I mean. First, love without faith is sloppy and ...Read More

Prepositions are wonderful things. No, I'm not crazy. Look with me at Colossians 1:4-5 and then draw your own conclusions. Having heard of the faith and love among the Colossians, visibly and vocally displayed, Paul has declared his gratitude to God. But how did God produce these virtues in the hearts and lives of his people? Some might suggest that he directed their thoughts away from heavenly reward to earthly responsibilities. If these people are going to be of any ...Read More

I would be remiss if I didn't share with you the comments of John Piper on this passage in Colossians 1:4-5. In a sermon titled "The Fruit of Hope: Love", preached on July 13, 1986, John addressed the objection that being "heavenly-minded" is a threat to earthly productivity and fruitfulness and love toward those in need. Fixing our thoughts and hopes on heaven, so some contend, doesn't produce love, but escapism. And so we must ask, writes Piper, "Is it true that when...Read More

Paul has focused on the hope we all have in Christ as the ground or fountain from which flow both faith and love. Of this hope, he now writes in Colossians 1:5-6, "you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing – as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth." Let me make four brief observations on this text. First, the...Read More

In Colossians 1:4 Paul acknowledged the love these believers have toward one another. He praises and thanks God for having evoked this in their hearts. In v. 8 he mentions it yet again, but here explicitly describes it as being "in the Spirit." Somewhat surprisingly, this is the only explicit reference to the Holy Spirit in the book of Colossians. Needless to say, there are countless activities and virtues and experiences mentioned in this book that are elsewhere in the...Read More

You may recall that in Philippians 2:25-30 Paul described a certain Epaphroditus who risked his life for the work of Christ. "Honor such men" (v. 29b), said Paul. Tragically, today we honor people in whom we find none of the characteristics of an Epaphroditus. It is the pompous, arrogant athlete, or the self-indulgent Hollywood actress, or the unscrupulous Wall-Street financial wizard who wins our praise and adoration. Perhaps it's time to re-evaluate the criteria by wh...Read More

Let's be sure we understand the nature of intercessory prayer. I've heard any number of definitions, but none better than that of Lloyd John Ogilvie who said that intercession is not so much my placing my burdens on God's heart but "God putting his burdens on our hearts." I can't prove it, but I suspect that God takes greater delight in blessing me in response to your prayers on my behalf than he does when I ask him myself. That isn't to say I shouldn't pray for myself ...Read More

So what did Paul pray for? What did he want most for those in Colossae? I wonder what they might have said to him had he asked, "How may I pray for you?" We'll never know, but what we do know is that Paul asked, apparently repeatedly, that God would fill them "with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding." Let's be clear about one thing. Simply because Paul prayed for them to know God's will does not mean we are forbidden to ask for other thi...Read More

There's a reason why I put a question mark after the title for this meditation. I'm asking whether knowledge of God, true, soul-saving knowledge of God, can be fruitless? Can a person "know" God in the way Paul describes in Colossians 1:9 and not bear the fruit of holiness? George Barna recently described 77 million church-going Americans as "born again." In my review of his book, Revolution, I took issue with this. I didn't do so because I regard myself as the infalli...Read More

There are two phrases in v. 10 that call for our careful attention. (1) Observe that Paul speaks of the need for us to walk "worthy of the Lord." The apostle uses similar language in a number of texts. For example, in Philippians 1:27 he exhorts the believers in that city to let their "manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ." In Ephesians 4:1 he urges believers "to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called." Again, in 1 Thessalonians...Read More

Paul's prayer in Colossians 1 actually frightens some people. It is intimidating to them for one of two reasons (or both): some are afraid they won't have the power to live worthy of the Lord and to bear fruit in every good work, while others fear that once they start out in their efforts to do so they'll end up quitting, they simply won't have the endurance to persevere in what they began. So either the sense of personal weakness and spiritual impotence, on the one hand...Read More

If you are reading the ESV (English Standard Version), as I am, you'll see that the words "with joy" are placed at the close of v. 11, as if to qualify the endurance and patience that God's power will enable us to experience. In other words, this rendering suggests that perseverance and longsuffering are to be joyful, not morose and sullen, as if we were to submit to injustice and hardship grudgingly and with a long face. I certainly think the Bible teaches this, but I'...Read More

There is a slight difference between being "unqualified" and being "disqualified". In the former case, I may simply lack a talent or attribute or sufficient education to fulfill a task. There's really no shame or fault in being unqualified. We can always work harder or go to school to cultivate the necessary characteristics for whatever it is we desire to achieve. But to be "disqualified" means you are unfit for the task, you are excluded because of specific failures or...Read More

When the apostle Paul stood before King Agrippa, he gave an account of what happened to him on the road to Damascus. Jesus, he said, was sending him to the Gentiles "to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me" (Acts 26:18). When Paul wrote to the Colossians he portrayed their salvation in almost identical terms: Yo...Read More

Jesus Christ, the one into whose kingdom we have been transferred (Col. 1:13), is also the one, indeed the only one, "in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Col. 1:14). It isn't in the keeping of New Year's resolutions that forgiveness is found, nor in the therapy of a psychiatrist's counsel. Neither good works nor good intentions nor the cultivation of a healthy self-esteem can wipe clean the slate of our souls. Forgiveness is found only in Christ. And ...Read More

The Sea of Galilee on this particular night was unusually disturbed. A raging storm had suddenly arisen, tossing the tiny boat around like a toothpick in a whirlpool. Fearing for their lives, the disciples awakened their sleeping companion who calmly rebuked the wind and the sea and reduced the fury of the storm to a peaceful hush. Awestruck, they murmured among themselves, asking the question, "Who, then, is this man, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (Mark 4:41...Read More

Seeing is believing, or so we are told. But if that's true, how can we ever be expected to believe in God? Several biblical texts make it clear that God is, by nature, invisible. It isn't just that he has not been seen: he CANNOT be seen (cf. John 1:18; Romans 1:20; 1 Timothy 6:16; Hebrews 11:27). Even here in Colossians 1:15 he is described as "the invisible God." In Romans 1:20, Paul says that God's existence and eternal attributes can be seen in the things that are m...Read More

I admit it sounds pretty weird at first, but there’s something stunning about prepositions. That’s right, prepositions. I’m really not nuts. Trust me. Yes, I’m talking about those words like “in” and “over” and “through” and “by” and “for”, just to mention a few. There is immeasurable spiritual wealth in those little words. I’m fascinated to think that God would entrust the revela...Read More

I've never been in an earthquake, and I hope I never am. I've seen quite a few tornadoes in my life. Having grown up in Oklahoma and Texas, I actually grew somewhat accustomed to hearing the warning sirens and seeking shelter in the appropriate place. But I have no idea what it is like to have the ground beneath your feet shake and split open. That is one sensation from which I've been spared. But the Colossian Christians knew what it was like. Ancient Colossae was loca...Read More

If it weren't for biblical texts like Colossians 1:18, it would be easy to get discouraged about the local church. There Paul continues his description of Jesus Christ with the statement, "And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent." I've ministered in a lot of churches from a vast array of denominations: Presbyterian, Vineyard, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Nazarene, Assemblies...Read More

In my travels I've had the opportunity to visit a wide variety of churches. Not long ago I was in a mainline Protestant denominational church where I couldn't help but notice a variety of Sunday School classes that were being promoted in the foyer. On the table were a number of books to be studied in the respective classes. To say I was shocked to see a volume by the Episcopalian bishop John Shelby Spong is an understatement. Spong has become (in)famous in recent years ...Read More

I generally loathe tautologies. Needless redundancies drive me nuts. Saying the same thing twice when once will do generally ruins my day. Well, I hope you get my point! But there are biblical tautologies that need to be noted. They are often theologically profound and deserving of careful attention. One such tautology is found in Colossians 1:19 where Paul says that in Christ "all the fullness" of God was pleased to dwell. But what other kind of "fullness" is there: "p...Read More

After speaking at a recent conference, I was approached by an inquisitive man who asked for clarification concerning something I said about the incarnation of Christ. "Yes, you heard me correctly," I responded. "The incarnation of Christ never ends." He was understandably befuddled. "I always just assumed," he replied, "that once we were all in heaven Jesus would somehow divest himself of his human nature and revert to his former mode of existence, like he was with the ...Read More

Yes, insists Carlton Pearson, pastor of Higher Dimensions Family Church of Tulsa, Oklahoma. But not everyone agrees. Pearson's church, whose membership swelled to 5,000 before he announced his theological convictions, has dwindled to about 500. Pearson was ordained by the Church of God in Christ, the largest black Pentecostal denomination in the U.S. According to Pearson, everyone will end up in heaven whether or not they exercise conscious faith in Jesus Christ. The doo...Read More

We considered in the previous meditation the suggestion that when Paul says "all things, whether on earth or in heaven" have been reconciled to God through the blood of the cross that he had in mind the redeemed citizens of the new creation, those who are now and will be members of the Church of which Christ is the living Head and Beginning (thereby maintaining a close connection between v. 20 and vv. 18-19). But there is another possibility that we need to consider. Ac...Read More

I don't know who it was that first conceived the idea, but one of the more durable and effective advertising schemes is the "before" and "after." I can remember as a young boy turning to the back page of my Superman comic book only to find myself looking at the less than flattering, black and white, picture of a pathetically scrawny, virtually emaciated man, under which was written one word: "Before." On the other side of the page was the impressive, color portrait of a ...Read More

Thank God that there is something "after" the "before"! Before Jesus there was only alienation, hostility, and evil deeds (v. 21). Not a very flattering picture! But now . . . (v. 22a). Oh, my. But now! Were ever more glorious words spoken to otherwise hopeless and helpless sinners? But now! Were it not for the divine and gracious "But now" we would be forever mired and entrenched in the "Always" of sin and death and darkness. There would be no purpose in speaking of a ...Read More

If "before" we were alienated, then "after" we are reconciled. What a wonderful word, reconciliation. But what does it mean? Perhaps more than any other word in the language of the New Testament, reconciliation highlights the personal and relational nature of our salvation. Justification points to the forensic (or legal) declaration that we are righteous in Christ. Redemption emphasizes our being ransomed from bondage to sin. Sacrifice has in view the Old Testament ritua...Read More

If you're among Christians, talking about politics will rarely lead to an angry debate. Disagreement, yes, but usually a civil and constructive one. Sports? Even Christians have their favorite players and teams and will defend them vigorously, but not at the expense of unity. There is a way of creating a furor, if you're so inclined. Just bring up the question of whether or not a believer can lose his/her salvation. State your position, and then duck! I've been in a few...Read More

"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake" (Col. 1:24a). Does that strike you the way it does me? Who in their right mind would ever "rejoice" in their "sufferings"? I suppose people who take a perverse pleasure in pain for its own sake might conceivably utter such words (minus the "for your sake," of course). But why would a Christian, like Paul, say it? The New Testament perspective on suffering is truly unique. In Matthew 5:10-12, Jesus pronounced a blessing on ...Read More

Colossians 1:24 has consistently baffled and bothered Christians for centuries. Understandably so! Look at it again: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church." Here are a few of the interpretive possibilities, concluding with the two I find most convincing. First, let's be clear about what this text does not mean. Paul is not saying that the redemp...Read More

If I thought, for a moment, that this life was all there was or ever would be, I would fall immediately and irretrievably into utter despair. If "this," as the beer commercial suggests, "is as good as it gets," I think I'd pop a pill or pull the trigger or find some way to escape as quickly and painlessly as possible the futility and meaningless of this life. But I have hope. I am confident that "this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of ...Read More

What is your responsibility to other believers with whom God brings you into contact and relationship? Have you yielded to the temptation to give them over to someone else to warn and admonish and instruct concerning Jesus? Do you read about the life and ministry of the apostle Paul and say to yourself: "Well, that's Paul. It certainly isn't me. I'm no apostle, that's for sure. I can't possibly read how he related to others and think that I should do the same." If that'...Read More

There's simply no restrained or measured way of saying it: Colossians 1:29 is a stunning passage of Scripture! The ESV renders it this way: "For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me." The NASB reads, "For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me." There are several reasons why I'm excited about this text. Let me begin with Paul's description of his ministry. But don't disengage. ...Read More

The secret of Paul's success was not his education, his cultural heritage, his homiletical techniques, nor the appeal of his personality, but God's power working in him. To make this point he piles up, one upon another, words that focus our attention on the energy and activity of God: "For this I toil, struggling with all his ENERGY that he POWERFULLY WORKS within me" (ESV). Or again, "For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His POWER, which MIGHTILY WORKS w...Read More

Paul opens chapter two of his epistle to the Colossians with this description of his prayers on their behalf: "For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and kno...Read More

That Paul agonized and struggled in prayer for the Colossians is obvious. That we should do the same for other believers, whether we know them or not (cf. Col. 2:1), is also beyond dispute. But what did he pray for? What should WE pray for? To answer this question we need to look closely at v. 2. There are two different ways of interpreting this passage. According to one view, Paul is informing them of his struggle on their behalf so that their knowledge of his labor an...Read More

Doubt or uncertainty isn't always bad. It can often be productive, by driving us into deeper study and investigation. If we are absolutely convinced about everything, beyond the shadow of a doubt, we face the even bigger problem of arrogance and pride. Doubt humbles. It reminds us that we are finite and that our knowledge is always subject to improvement and increase. But doubt can also be crippling in a way that undermines our relationship with God. If we are constantl...Read More

We've come to the conclusion of Paul's intercessory prayer in Colossians 2:1-3. But it's not simply a conclusion: it's more of the climax, the pinnacle, the ultimate aim, if you will, of all that Paul has prayed. Read these verses one more time: "For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of fu...Read More

How would you describe your faith? What characteristics would you attribute to it? Would you use adjectives like "passionate," "orthodox," "vibrant," "creative," or something similar? Or would you employ a theological or denominational tag to identify the nature of your relationship with Jesus? Perhaps you would describe yourself as being of the "Reformed" faith or as having "traditional" faith or maybe even "Word of Faith". Some, in a more vulnerable and honest moment...Read More

I desperately need the encouragement of this passage. My guess is that a lot of you do too. I need it because of what it tells me about my past and my present. Earlier in Colossians we noted how Paul emphasized our future, or the hope we have in Christ of inheriting and experiencing eternal and unchanging glory (see Col. 1:5,21-23,27). But here in Colossians 2:6-7 it is the past and present that concerns us. In order to see this we need to take note of how this passage ...Read More

So far in our study of Colossians I've avoided saying anything in depth about the problem that led Paul to write this letter in the first place. There is good reason for that. I long ago lost count of the number of theories concerning the essence of the so-called "Colossian heresy" (it probably consisted of an odd mix of gnosticism, asceticism, and an inordinate emphasis on the importance of angels; some have contended there was also a Judaizing element in it). But we c...Read More

The apostle Paul was many things, but "politically correct" wasn't one of them! He rarely shied away from using graphic and often gruesome language if he thought it effective in making a point. If he thought he could help people he wasn't averse to offending them to do it. How else does one account for the language of Colossians 2:11? There Paul declares that in Christ "you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by...Read More

Why do I believe that only believers should be baptized in water? Why am I a "credo-baptist" rather than a "paedo-baptist" (the term "credo" comes from the Latin which means "I believe," hence baptism for believers only; the term "paedo" comes from the Greek word for infant). Before I answer that question, it may be helpful to briefly explain why some Christians baptize their infants. The primary reason comes from their understanding of the relationship between Old Test...Read More

There is a fascinating phrase in Colossians 2:12 that few commentators mention. It concerns the focus of our faith. Here again is v. 12 as it is translated in the ESV – "having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead." I find it interesting that Paul says our faith is in the "powerful working" of God and not simply in God or even in Jesus Christ. Of course, t...Read More

"And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross" (Col. 2:13-14). Someone once said that before we get people saved we have to get them lost! There's a lot of truth in that statement. The fact is, our society has virtually lost any sense of sin. Wh...Read More

Most who are reading this are in some form of financial debt. Blessings to those of you who are not! But the majority of us owe money, either on a car or a home or a student loan, or something of the sort. Although it can be burdensome, most of us can at least see a light at the end of the tunnel. We are energized by the hope that one day it will be paid in full and we will receive from our creditors a piece of paper releasing us from any further obligation. But to be b...Read More

I believe in the existence and activity of demonic spirits. I believe that spiritual warfare is all too real, that we must be discerning when it comes to "the schemes of the devil" (Eph. 6:11) and diligent in our efforts to "put on the whole armor of God" as we "stand firm" (Eph. 6:13) in the battle with principalities and powers. We must take seriously Paul's reminder that our primary battle is not against "flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authoriti...Read More

What an incredibly encouraging passage this is! "He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him" (Colossians 2:15). Let's unpack it, word by word. We should begin by determining who the "He" is of v. 15 that is responsible for this remarkable triumph? Is the subject of this "disarming" God the Father or our Lord Jesus Christ or perhaps, in some sense, both of them? In vv. 13-14 God the Father was clearly the subject of ...Read More

This paragraph is probably the most difficult one in the book of Colossians to interpret. It is also difficult to apply, given the fact that the false teaching that provoked Paul to write what he did doesn't find a perfect counterpart in our day and time. But there are enough parallels between what the Colossians faced in the first century and what we face today to make our study of this text relevant and meaningful. Perhaps the best way to unpack this passage is to pro...Read More

There is a sense in which divine grace will always be a threat to human nature. Why a threat, you ask? Because grace undermines our efforts to justify ourselves. Grace runs counter to human pride and that impulse we all feel to boast in our own accomplishments. Grace requires that we defer all praise to God. Grace undermines our best efforts at establishing a list of requirements and prohibitions that we can impose on ourselves and others as the condition on which we gai...Read More

Coaches today, at all levels of athletic competition, will often deliberately get themselves kicked out of a game as a way of motivating their team. They may well have to pay a fine and perhaps lose the respect of certain fans, but they regard it as worth the price if it will serve to light a fire in the hearts of otherwise lethargic and apathetic players. When Paul tells the Colossian Christians, "Let no one disqualify you" (v. 18a), he used a word that in ancient time...Read More

Perhaps the most insidious form of legalism is asceticism. Not all asceticism is bad. Many in the church could do with a little self-discipline and self-restraint. We live in an overly indulgent society in which at times the only sin seems to be abstinence. Paul referred to godly asceticism when he spoke of buffeting his body and making it his slave, preparatory to running a race so that he might win (1 Cor. 9:24-27). Sinful asceticism, on the other hand, is the sort th...Read More

Regardless of where I go or where I speak I can always count on at least one constant reality, one common thread that unites all Christians and all denominations and all churches: they all struggle with the temptation to sin and want to know how to defeat it and break free of its paralyzing grip. I've said many times and written of it in my books that the church, to a large degree, has failed in its well-meant efforts to equip Christians to wage war against the world, t...Read More

Among the many incredible statements in Psalm 16, consider David's declaration in v. 2 – "I say to the LORD, 'You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.'" I fear that if I were honest with myself I'd be forced to identify a number of things in life I consider "good" that bear no relation to Christ Jesus. I'm grieved by that. It's another way of saying that my life isn't nearly as Christocentric (now that's a word worth memorizing!) as it should be. This is wh...Read More

Gnosticism is an insidious evil. Whata-cism? Gnosticism. Indeed, few things are as great a threat to godly Christian living than the modern manifestations of this ancient heresy. Some of you may not be familiar with the term, so allow me to briefly explain the sense in which I use it here. One of the more fundamental elements in Gnosticism is its disdain for the material, earthly realm in favor of a spiritual or other-worldly orientation. This is because matter is inher...Read More

My life is "hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3)! More than that, there is a sense in which it isn't even my life. It's Christ's (Colossians 3:4). It's true of you, too, if you believe in the Lord Jesus. What a powerful declaration! Let me catch my breath and I'll try to make sense of these stunning statements. First, though, we mustn't overlook the fact that your life is "hidden" only insofar as you are "with Christ." In other words, if you don't have Christ you...Read More

I opened the previous meditation by saying, with Paul, that my life that is now hidden with Christ isn't even mine. It's his (Colossians 3:4). More than that, this life of Christ within me, though now somewhat concealed, will someday be fully revealed. Listen to Paul once again: "When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory" (Col. 3:4). What does it mean to say that Christ is our life? And what are we to expect when he finally appear...Read More

The Puritan theologian John Owen (d. 1683) once wrote, “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you” (Works, VI:9)! Good advice, or melodramatic overreaction? Sadly, many professing Christians opt for the latter, at least in terms of how they live. How radically different is Paul’s attitude toward sin from that of the world and, tragically, a great many in the church. In this age of seeker-sensitivity one does not often hear the word “sin” sp...Read More

If I were asked to identify the two most dominant features of our society today, I may well opt for (1) unbridled sexual self-indulgence and (2) greed. If there is any justification in that selection, Colossians 3:5 is uniquely relevant for our day. In this passage Paul gives us the first of two lists of five sins that we are to slay (v. 5a) and strip away (v. 8; it is here that we find the second list). The ESV renders the verse as follows: “Put to death therefor...Read More

Where does one draw the line between a legitimate longing and covetousness? It’s not a razor’s edge, that’s for sure. The line is often fuzzy. The boundary between the two is not always as objectively discernible as we might wish. The problem is that we don’t always understand our own motivation. Why do I long to possess that new car? What accounts for my desire to have more than what I currently own? Would more “stuff” serve a utilit...Read More

Among the many distortions of biblical truth in our world today, few are more egregious than that of Joel B. Green and Mark D. Baker in their horribly mis-titled and misleading book, “Recovering the Scandal of the Cross: Atonement in New Testament & Contemporary Contexts” (IVP, 2000). The focus of the book is their repudiation of Christ’s death on the cross as a penal substitutionary sacrifice. My primary concern in this lesson, however, is less wit...Read More

“But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth” (Col. 3:8). O.K., Paul, we agree with you about slander and obscene talk. Those are verbal actions over which we can exercise a measure of control. We can choose not to speak ill of someone or to use inappropriate language. Whether or not we do so is up to us. We can just keep our mouths shut! But how can you tell us to put away anger and wrath and malice? ...Read More

Following the other sins of the tongue, and somewhat singled out from them, is this brief but crucial command: “Do not lie to one another” (Col. 3:9a). So easily written. So easily recited. So easily ignored.   I don’t want to commit another sin of the tongue by giving myself to overstatement, but it’s hard to imagine a more destructive force in the body of Christ (or in marriages or in routine relationships) than lying. Virtually everythi...Read More

Put to death sexual immorality. Avoid covetousness. Stop lying. Do this. Don’t do that. Taboos. Prohibitions. Commandments. Rules. Enough already! At least, that’s how some feel when they read Colossians 3. The fact is, Paul does provide in quite some detail a list of proscribed activities. Later in the chapter he will insist on a display of compassion and kindness and humility and any number of other moral virtues to govern our relationships with one anothe...Read More

Have you ever found yourself asking the question, “What is God doing in me, why is he doing it, and how?” Sadly, we often respond to that question with simplistic and unbiblical answers that cater to personal preferences and conform to what we want the Christian life to be. There are, in fact, a number of different but compatible images, models, and metaphors in the New Testament that account for and explain the Christian life: it’s a war, it’s a...Read More

"All that Matters is You, O Lord!" (Colossians 3:11)Read More

A.            Authorship Romans claims to have been written by the apostle Paul (1:1), a claim to which there has never been a serious challenge. Paul, however, did employ an amanuensis, named Tertius (Rom. 16:22), the ancient equivalent of a modern-day secretary, who actually put pen to parchment. There are three possible roles for an amanuensis: 1)           ...Read More

What does it mean to be “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved” (Col. 3:12a)? We’ll get to that, but right now it may be more important and instructive to take note of the context in which these terms are found. Don’t think for a moment that Paul wasn’t keenly aware of what had preceded in chapter three and what would immediately follow. He’s been talking, rather forcefully and graphically, about our ethical responsibility, our mo...Read More

I.              Epistolary Introduction - 1:1-17   A.            Paul and the Principles of the Gospel- 1:1-7   1.             The messenger of the gospel - 1:1   2.             The message of the gospel - 1:2-4 &...Read More

The garment of Christian godliness is seamless. It isn’t a patchwork of virtues sewed together and therefore just as easily pulled apart. The life that truly reflects the beauty and goodness of Jesus is unified in its display of the many, interrelated qualities that he embodied. Nowhere is this better seen than in Colossians 3:12 where Paul lists several of the characteristics of that “garment of godliness” with which we are to adorn ourselves. “...Read More

“Most of the ground that Satan gains in the lives of Christians,” wrote Neil Anderson, “is due to unforgiveness” (Bondage Breaker, 194). I couldn’t agree more. It isn’t hard to figure out why, once we realize that unforgiveness breeds bitterness, resentment, anger, unkindness, and even despair. The apostle Paul certainly knew this, which explains his emphasis in Colossians 3:13 where he exhorts us to bear “with one another, forg...Read More

In the previous lesson we looked at five myths about forgiveness that many people, sadly, embrace as truth. We now need to look at what forgiveness actually is. What does it mean and how do we do it? The apostle Paul said in our text that we are to forgive “as” the Lord has forgiven us (Col. 3:13b; cf. Eph. 4:32). The word “as” points to two things. We are to forgive “because” God forgave us. But we are also to forgive “as&rdquo...Read More

Addendum: Additional Comments on Homosexuality in Romans 1:18-32Read More

You may be tired of hearing about it, but there’s simply no escaping the centrality of love in the community of God’s people. We must consciously resist any temptation to diminish its importance or casually set it to the side simply because it’s overused and abused. I certainly understand why there is a reaction to the concept of love. I’ve seen countless instances where truth has been compromised or altogether sacrificed in the name of preservin...Read More

I.              Epistolary Introduction - 1:1-17 A.            Paul and the Principles of the Gospel - 1:1-7 This introduction of himself to the Romans is unusually long by Pauline standards. According to Moo, "the length and theological orientation of this prescript are due mainly to the fact that Paul was introducing himself to a church that he had ...Read More

One undeniable thing about the New Testament is its often brutal honesty. There is no whitewashing of human weakness or the hardships of life. The apostle Paul is especially open and forthright about the struggles of being a Christian as well as the realities of existence in the church. We are not yet perfect. Heaven is still to come. Nowhere is this better seen than in Colossians 3. Paul recognizes that, notwithstanding the grace of conversion, Christians still fight a...Read More

Yes, all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for our instruction and growth in Christ. No text is any more inspired than another. At the same time, some passages seem to have been written in bold print, in a different font, so to speak. They come across as if highlighted at every turn with exclamation points. One feels as if they are crying out more loudly than others, demanding our undivided attention and analysis. “Don’t simply read me,” they se...Read More

“The Sermon on the Mount is probably the best-known part of the teaching of Jesus, though arguably it is the least understood, and certainly it is the least obeyed. It is the nearest thing to a manifesto that he ever uttered, for it is his own description of what he wanted his followers to be and to do” (John Stott). Introductory comments: Whereas Stott’s words are in large measure true, I’m not sure about the Sermon being the “best-known&...Read More

The translation of Colossians 3:16 in the ESV is slightly different from the NASV. According to the former, our responsibility is one of “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in [y]our hearts to God.” As you can see, “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” are to be sung by Christians. Well, of course one sings them! But I don’t think that’s what this verse i...Read More

I.          Epistolary Introduction - 1:1-17 II.        The Way of Salvation - 1:18-5:21 A.        Human Depravity: the doctrine of universal sin - 1:18-3:20 1.         Sin & Condemnation of the Gentiles - 1:18-32 2.         Sin & Condemnation of the Jews - 2:1-3:8 T...Read More

Here again is my translation of this remarkable passage: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom by means of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing in your hearts to God with thanksgiving.” I would like to conclude our study of this text with four brief observations. First, although one can surely worship without singing, we can’t ignore the emphasis in Scripture on this expression of praise ...Read More

I.              Epistolary Introduction - 1:1-17 II.            The Way of Salvation - 1:18-5:21   A.            Human Depravity: the doctrine of universal sin - 1:18-3:20   B.            Divine Deliverance: the doctrine of partic...Read More

Introduction As we begin our study of the Beatitudes, we would do well to hear D. A. Carson’s warning: “Diligent readers often cherish writers and speakers who can capture a complex position in a single, polished gem of a statement. Such aphorisms (as they are called) are especially telling when they first become public. Unfortunately, once an aphorism has been widely disseminated, it is in danger of being domesticated – a trained poodle that is dragg...Read More

Some Christians are really good at compartmentalizing their faith. By that I mean they pick and choose when and where and in what ways their Christian values and beliefs are expressed. There are certain “sacred” arenas, so to speak, in which being a Christian is for them the “thing to do”. But there are also “secular” venues in which they check their Christianity at the door and live almost as if they know nothing of Jesus Christ. Pau...Read More

There is a sense in which I address this issue with a measure of reluctance and hesitation. It isn’t because I’m in doubt about what Scripture says on the subject or because I’m uncertain about my own beliefs. It has to do with the widespread misunderstandings about the nature of headship and submission. Many think that headship and submission mean that a wife must sit passively and endure the sin or the abuse of the husband, as if submission means she...Read More

I.          Epistolary Introduction - 1:1-17 II.        The Way of Salvation - 1:18-5:21 A.        Human Depravity: the doctrine of universal sin - 1:18-3:20 B.        Divine Deliverance: the doctrine of particular justification - 3:21-5:21 1.         Justification: its provision ...Read More

A.             The Poor in Spirit – 5:3 What this beatitude does not mean: ·          Jesus does not mean blessed in spirit are the poor, as if to say that material poverty is in and of itself a virtue. For if it were, “then it would be an unchristian thing for a Christian or any other person to seek to alleviate the burdens of the destitute and t...Read More

“Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them” (Col. 3:19). Although the word for “headship” does not appear in this text, it is found in the parallel passage in Ephesians 5 and thus calls for extensive comment. Perhaps the best place to begin, as I did with submission, is by dispelling the myths about the nature of biblical headship. First, husbands are never commanded to rule their wives, but to love them. The Bible never says, &ld...Read More

A.                   The Pure in Heart - 5:8   One would be hard-pressed to identify a period in human history when people were as obsessed with their bodies, physical health, and external appearance as they are today. In a day when beautification of one’s “outer self” has become something of national hobby, purification of the “inner self” is a ...Read More

I.          Epistolary Introduction - 1:1-17 II.         The Way of Salvation - 1:18-5:21 A.        Human Depravity: the doctrine of universal sin - 1:18-3:20 B.        Divine Deliverance: the doctrine of particular justification - 3:21-5:21 [It should be noted that I recognize a break in Paul’s argument betw...Read More

The Christian and the WorldRead More

Although his comments are brief, Paul cared deeply for the welfare of the family and the relational dynamics that governed it. Having addressed both husbands and wives (Col. 3:18-19), he now turns his attention to the parent/child relationship. “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord [literally, ‘this is pleasing in the Lord’]. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:20-21). ...Read More

A.             The City of Corinth: its History The history of ancient Corinth is the story of two cities. We first take note of Corinth in 146 b.c. when it was invaded by a Roman army under the leadership of L. Mummius who destroyed the city and killed or enslaved virtually the entire population. Corinth lay in ruins for more than a century until 44 b.c. when Julius Caesar saw its great potential. He gave orde...Read More

All people sustain a 3-fold relationship to sin. We are, first of all, under the penalty of sin. We are guilty of having transgressed the law of God and are thus liable to the punishment it imposes. But sin also exercises a power over every individual. We are born spiritually dead and morally corrupt, under the influence and mastery of sin, and thus subject to its power. Finally, there is the presence of sin within us. The principle of sin resides within our hearts and m...Read More

Jesus and the Old TestamentRead More

“Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, ...Read More

No book in the Old Testament, or for that matter in the New Testament, has been subjected to critical examination as thoroughly and often as unfairly as has the book of Daniel. The questions of authorship, date, structure, language, and especially literary genre simply cannot be ignored. The book of Daniel has for too long now been in the “critic’s den” and the mouths of these liberal lions must be firmly and finally shut.   A.   &...Read More

A.             Introduction 1:1-7 1.              Historical context 1:1-2 Several items of interest: *          The date For a solution to the apparent chronological discrepancy in 1:1, see the Introduction. *          Jehoiakim, king of Judah (Eliakim) a...Read More

A.             Greeting and Thanksgiving - 1:1-11 1.              The author - 1:1a a.              his calling: an apostle (by the will of God) "But when he describes himself as 'an apostle by the will of God,' he is not emphasizing his own obedience or response to a divine call. ...Read More

I.Epistolary Introduction - 1:1-17 II.The Way of Salvation - 1:18-5:21 III.The Way of Sanctification - 6:1-8:39 A.Freedom from Bondage to Sin - 6:1-23 B.Freedom from Bondage to the Law - 7:1-25 1.Sanctification and God's law - 7:1-13 a.the biblical response to legalism - vv. 1-6 1)the principle - v. 1 2)the picture - vv. 2-4 a)illustration - vv. 2-3 b)interpretation - v. 4 3)the practice - vv. 5-6 a)our past experience under the law - v. 5 b)our present expe...Read More

Dealing With AngerRead More

The easiest thing about praying is quitting. Giving up seems so reasonable, so easy to justify. It’s always been that way, which is why Paul wrote in Colossians 4:2, “continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” Persevering in prayer when no one seems to listen strikes many people as a sign of fanaticism, if not mental instability. Not long ago I received an e-mail from a friend who was facing the impending deaths of several...Read More

Following a lengthy opening salutation in which Paul expresses his gratitude to God for the comfort and deliverance he had experienced (vv. 1-11), Paul turns immediately to a defense of his integrity and motives in his dealings with the Corinthians. The charges leveled against him by certain persons at Corinth were both varied and vicious. In 1:12-2:4 Paul responds to three false accusations which were designed to undermine his apostolic authority. A.   &...Read More

A.             Authorship: Who wrote it? First John joins Hebrews in being the only two books in the NT with no introductory announcement as to their author. It is an extremely personal letter but nowhere do we find explicit reference to its author (the author of the 2nd and 3rd epistles calls himself "the Elder"). There are, however, several clues which indicate that the author was John the Apostle who also pe...Read More

Dealing With LustRead More

“Continue steadfastly in prayer,” writes Paul, “being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2). There’s always a possibility that someone reading this passage might walk away with the idea that prayer is an anxious, troublesome, fearful endeavor. Paul’s language might easily contribute to that, were it not for the final two words of the text. Let me explain. If I were to exhort you concerning some spiritual activity and insisted, ...Read More

A.             Nebuchadnezzar's Dream 2:1-2   1.              the dream 2:1 We face yet another issue of chronology here. If Daniel was brought to Babylon in the first year of Neb's reign and then began a three year training period (1:5), after which he served the king, how could chapter two describe events that occurred during the second y...Read More

Special Study on Church Discipline A.             Greeting and Thanksgiving - 1:1-11 B.             Paul's Defense against Unwarranted Accusations - 1:12-2:4 C.             Paul on Church Discipline - 2:5-11 1.              Pr...Read More

Two introductory issues: *          Is there a parallel between the events recorded in Daniel 3 and those of Revelation 13:11-18? *          Where is Daniel? (1) As president or chief of the wise men he may have been excluded from the state offices mentioned in vv. 2-3 (cf. 2:49). Indeed, 'none of the 'wise men', over whom Daniel had been made chief, were included in the call for ...Read More

I.          Epistolary Introduction - 1:1-17 II.         The Way of Salvation - 1:18-5:21 III.       The Way of Sanctification - 6:1-8:39 A.        Freedom from Bondage to Sin - 6:1-23 B.        Freedom from Bondage to the Law - 7:1-25 C.        Free...Read More

“At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison – that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak” (Col. 4:3-4). Now, wait just a minute. We all agree that God loves lost souls and wants them to hear the gospel of salvation in his Son. So why does he suspend the opening of an evangelistic door to them on the prayers of the Colossians? I’...Read More

Introductory comments: First, some believe that 4:1-3 is more properly a conclusion to chp. 3 than an introduction to chp. 4. However, 3:28-30 is a perfectly adequate ending to the story of that chapter, even as 4:1-3 is an appropriate introduction to the narrative of chapter 4 in which God does indeed perform a 'sign for Neb in demonstrating that His kingdom and dominion are eternal (other 'signs would include the dream and its interpretation in chp. 2 and the three me...Read More

A.             Greeting and Thanksgiving - 1:1-11 B.             Paul's Defense against Unwarranted Accusations - 1:12-2:4 C.             Paul on Church Discipline - 2:5-11 D.            Paul and the Gospel of Christ - 2:12-17 1. &...Read More

I.               Introduction: The Apostolic Message - 1:1-4 A.             The Substance of the Apostolic Message - 1:1-2 These opening verses are quite difficult grammatically. There are four clauses (with a fifth in v. 3a), each beginning with "which" (a neuter pronoun designed to express "the whole career of Jesus" [Brown], i.e., the per...Read More

Telling the TruthRead More

Political correctness notwithstanding, Christianity is an evangelistic religion. Its aim is to proclaim the good news that there is eternal life in only one: Jesus Christ. Its aim, by the grace of God, is to bring about the deliverance of men and women out of the domain of darkness into the kingdom of light. There are some things, no doubt, for which we as Christians ought to apologize, but declaring that faith in Jesus Christ alone is essential for eternal life isn&rsqu...Read More

E.             Paul and the Ministry of the New Covenant - 3:1-18 1.              the Corinthians: Paul's commendation in New Covenant ministry - 3:1-3 Paul may well have felt somewhat awkward following his comments in 2:14-17, thinking that it sounded self-serving and boastful. Perhaps his accusers would use vv. 14-17 to say: "Well, there he goe...Read More

I.  God's Church: Its Theological Foundations 1:1-3:21 A. Prologue 1:1-2 The prologue to Ephesians contains the regular Pauline pattern in which he identifies himself, those to whom he writes, followed by greetings. We must be careful not to dismiss these opening comments as theologically vacuous or practically irrelevant. They are always rich and powerful. 1. author 1:1a In Rom. 1:1 Paul referred to himself as "an apostle by calling" or "a called apos...Read More

Introductory comments: First, we need to review the historical circumstances. Neb died in 562 b.c. after 43 years on the throne of Babylon. He was succeeded by his son Amel-Marduk who was assassinated by his brother-in-law Neriglissar (also spelled Nergal-shar-usur) after reigning only 2 years (562-60 b.c.; for more on Amel-Marduk, also called Evil-Merodach, see 2 Kings 25:27-30; Jer. 52:31-34). Neriglissar may well be the Nergalsharezer of Jer. 39:3,13, who, while an o...Read More

Perhaps the most revealing test of spirituality is our response to undeserved adversity. If we suffer because we’ve sinned, there’s nothing particularly special in yielding to it without complaint. We typically find the strength to endure with the reminder that the fault lies within. It may hurt, but there’s no one to blame but ourselves. But if one suffers unjustly and is able to avoid bitterness or resentment, that’s another thing altogether. T...Read More

I.               Introduction: The Apostolic Message - 1:1-4 II.             The First Series of Tests - 1:5-2:27 A.             The Moral Test (1) - 1:5-10 B.             A Digression: God's provision and assurance of sal...Read More

[Before beginning your study of Romans 9, I suggest you read the material on the Purpose of Romans 9-11 found elsewhere in this series of studies.] IV.          God's Purpose with Israel - 9:1-11:36 A.            Israel's Fall - 9:1-33   1.             Paul's pain - 9:1-5   a.   &nbs...Read More

Loving Your EnemiesRead More

I.              God's Purpose with Israel - 9:1-11:36 A.            Israel's Fall - 9:1-33   1.             Paul's pain - 9:1-5 2.             God's purpose - 9:6-13   Virtually all misunderstandings of vv. 6-13 arise f...Read More

Christians have often jokingly said that the three least appealing responsibilities they face are fasting, praying, and sharing their faith with non-believers. Sadly, though, it’s not just a joke. It’s a reality that has severely crippled the ministry of the body of Christ. Few have incorporated regular fasting into their spiritual diet (pun intended). Perhaps a few more actually pray on a regular basis, hopefully in accord with Paul’s exhortation in Co...Read More

F.             New Covenant Ministry and its Ministers: Treasure in Earthen Vessels - 4:1-15 1.              Treasure: the glory of the message - 4:1-6 a.              an open ministry - vv. 1-2 1)             steadfastnes...Read More

Introductory issues: First, is Daniel in general and this experience (Dan. 6) in particular typological of Jesus? Wisdom / prophetic powers / suffering / oppressed / condemned without justification through the activity of conspirators / den of lions = tomb (?) / both are shut with a stone and sealed / both men emerge victorious over death / etc. . . . Second, there are both similarities and contrasts between this event and the experience of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed...Read More

I.               God's Church: Its Theological Foundations (the Indicative) 1:1-3:21 A.             Prologue 1:1-2 1.              author 1:1a 2.              addressees 1:1b 3.     &nbs...Read More

What are we to do when Christians clash? I’m not thinking of momentary spats or minor disagreements, but of significant divisions and conflict grounded in equally sincere convictions about what is right and wise. If you’ve been a Christian for any period of time you’ve no doubt seen it or, sadly, been embroiled in one of your own. Once again, one of the admirable things about the Bible is its often brutal honesty, its refusal to gloss over the glitches...Read More

I.              God's Purpose with Israel - 9:1-11:36 A.            Israel's Fall - 9:1-33   1.             Paul's pain - 9:1-5 2.             God's purpose - 9:6-13 3.         &nb...Read More

Be Righteous, but be Careful!: GivingRead More

G.            The New Covenant Hope - 4:16-5:10 1.              the incomparable glory of heaven - 4:16-18 2.              the incorruptible life of heaven - 5:1-5 a.              the prospect of dying - v. 1 1) &nbs...Read More

In an earlier lesson we examined 7:1-8 and the vision of the four sea beasts. Our approach in this and the subsequent lesson will be more topical in nature. We will first focus on the identity of the Ancient of Days, the Son of Man, and the angelic interpretation of Daniel's visions. In the second part of our study on Daniel 7 we will look at the relation of the Messianic kingdom to that of the fourth beast and little horn, the identity of the little horn, and the refere...Read More

I.               God's Church: Its Theological Foundations (the Indicative) 1:1-3:21 A.             Prologue 1:1-2 1.              author 1:1a 2.              addressees 1:1b 3.     &nbs...Read More

Luke describes the incident between Paul and Barnabas as a “sharp disagreement” (Acts 15:39). I don’t know, but it may have sounded something like this: “Paul! You’re being unreasonable. I know you’re a man of conviction, but for heaven’s sake ease up a bit.” “I may be unreasonable in your estimation, Barnabas, but you are showing a distinct lack of wisdom. Don’t let the fact that he’s your cousin blind ...Read More

I.               Introduction: The Apostolic Message - 1:1-4 II.             The First Series of Tests - 1:5-2:27 A.             The Moral Test (1) - 1:5-10 B.             A Digression: God's provision and assurance of sal...Read More

Be Righteous, but be Careful!: PrayingRead More

I.               Introduction: The Apostolic Message - 1:1-4 II.             The First Series of Tests - 1:5-2:27 A.             The Moral Test (1) - 1:5-10 B.             A Digression: God's provision and assurance of sal...Read More

G.            The New Covenant Hope - 4:16-5:10 H.            The New Covenant Message: Reconciliation - 5:11-21 1.              the motivation of his ministry - 5:11-15 In sum, it is not the commendation of men but the fear of the Lord and the constraining love of Christ which motivate and move ...Read More

Indroduction to EcclesiastesRead More

In the previous study we examined the identity of the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man. We will now examine the interpretation of Daniel's vision as given him by the angelic mediator (7:16). However, as with the preceding lesson, instead of engaging in a verse by verse analysis, we will focus on three crucial issues. Before doing so, a brief review is in order. According to Dan. 7:7b-8, the fourth beast, respresentative of Rome, had 10 horns, among which there emerged...Read More

I.               God's Church: Its Doctrinal Foundation (the Indicative) - 1:1-3:21 A.             Prologue 1:1-2 B.             Praise to God 1:3-14 C.             Prayer for the Saints 1:15-23 1.    ...Read More

I.               Introduction: The Apostolic Message - 1:1-4 II.             The First Series of Tests - 1:5-2:27 III.           The Second Series of Tests - 2:28-4:6 A.             The Moral Test (3) - 2:28-3:10a John's major conc...Read More

IV.          God's Purpose with Israel - 9:1-11:36 A.            Israel's Fall - 9:1-33 B.            Israel's Fault - 10:1-21   1.             The negation of the gospel's purpose - 10:1-8   a.        &n...Read More

We’ve learned much from the clash of Paul and Barnabas over Mark. But there’s one more lesson to note. It comes by way of a painful contrast. Among those listed in the concluding paragraph of Colossians is a man named Demas (Colossians 4:14). He, too, was with Paul in Rome, faithfully serving the apostle alongside of Mark, Luke, Epaphras, and others. But not for long. Is there a more painful experience than being abandoned by a friend? One struggles to find...Read More

Be Righteous, But be Careful!: FastingRead More

I.               The New Covenant Ministry: the Quality of Paul's Service - 6:1-13 A.             Paul commands - 6:1-2 Paul describes himself as a "co-worker," but with whom or with what? Options: (1) with God (based on 5:18,21); (2) with Christ (based on 5:20), (3) with the Corinthians, or (4) with other teachers, perhaps his companions at...Read More

Nothing New Under the SunRead More

First, with 8:1 the language of the original text in Daniel shifts back to Hebrew from Aramaic. As noted in our introductory lesson, no one is certain why the book was written in this way. The most frequently heard explanation is that those portions of Daniel dealing more directly with the destiny and experience of Israel (such as chps. 8-12) were written in Hebrew and those dealing with the Gentile nations were written in Aramaic. Second, the purpose of chp. 8 is to fi...Read More

I.               God's Church: Its Doctrinal Foundation (the Indicative) - 1:1-3:21 A.             Prologue 1:1-2 1.              author 1:1a 2.              addressees 1:1b 3.      ...Read More

A.            The Nature of Proverbial Literature   The Hebrew word for proverb is mashal, which referred to a comparison, whether brief or extended. Later the word was used to describe a wide variety of wise pronouncements, from a general maxim to wisecrack. The English word "proverb" derives from the Latin words pro ("for") and verba ("words"), which reflects the idea that a proverb condenses many words into...Read More

A.            Sentences, Clauses, and Phrases   A sentence is a grouping of words that makes complete sense. A clause is a group of words which has a verb but is only part of a sentence. For example, in the sentence, "The student is listening to what the teacher says about Greek," the italicized portion is a clause. A phrase is a group of words without a verb. In the previous example, "about Greek" is a phrase...Read More

The Threat of MaterialismRead More

There’s a sickness in our society that has infiltrated and infected the church. I have in mind our modern obsession with superstars. Whether they be Hollywood actors, Wall Street moguls, or overpaid, egotistical athletes, they seem to fill our newspapers and dominate our headlines and have become, tragically in most cases, role models for our children. The Church is by no means immune to this infatuation with celebrity. Mega-church pastors, health-and-wealth advoc...Read More

A.        The Nature and Purpose of the Seven Letters   Here are the more popular views on the nature of these seven letters.   1.            Pastoral – These churches were definitely historical entities to which John was instructed to write. The most basic interpretive approach is to understand the letters as reflecting realistic, concrete circumstances existen...Read More

I.               The New Covenant Life: an Exhortation to Holiness - 6:14-7:1 [The authenticity of 6:14-7:1 and its place in the context of 2 Corinthians have been questioned. Three arguments are often used to prove that this paragraph did not originate with Paul, or at best was inserted by the apostle after the original composition of the letter: (1) the presence here of many words not found elsewher...Read More

Fun and Folly, Wisdom and WorkRead More

Introduction to the Poetic and Wisdom Books of the Old TestamentRead More

An Introduction to the Poetic and Wisdom Books of the OTRead More

1.         The English Bible   The debate over which is the best version of the English Bible still rages (see The King James Only Controversy: Can you Trust the Modern Translations? by James R. White [Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1995]). My personal preferences, in order of priority, are:   The English Standard Version – Published by Crossway Bibles (Wheaton, IL). This is the finest English translatio...Read More

[I have written a more extensive analysis of the question of Israel’s future as a nation which may be found in two documentsunder the category of Controversial Issues elsewhere on the website.] IV. God's Purpose with Israel - 9:1-11:36 A.        Israel's Fall - 9:1-33 B.        Israel's Fault - 10:1-21 C.        Israel's Future - 11:1-36 1.   ...Read More

The Threat of WorryRead More

It is appropriate that the first of the seven letters goes to Ephesus, for although not the titular capital of Asia (Pergamum held that honor), it was the most important political center of all. By the time the church received this letter, the city of Ephesus had grown to a population of @ 250,000. The imperial cult was present in Ephesus, as the temples of Claudius, Hadrian, Julius Caesar, Augustus, and Severus give ample testimony.   Religion and magic were hop...Read More

We must never minimize or overlook the incredible influence in the early church of a number of courageous and faithful women. Where does one begin to list them all? I suppose we’d have to give preeminent notice to Mary, the mother of Jesus, whose remarkable faith and submission to God’s will is an example for all people, male and female, of all ages (cf. Luke 1:38). One thinks also of Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, the mother of John the Baptist. Mary and M...Read More

I.               Introduction: The Apostolic Message - 1:1-4 II.             The First Series of Tests - 1:5-2:27 III.           The Second Series of Tests - 2:28-4:6 A.             The Moral Test (3) - 2:28-3:10a 1.  &nb...Read More

Judging OthersRead More

L.             New Covenant Stewardship - 8:1-9:15 The historical background to the Jerusalem Collection: See 1 Cor. 16:1-4; Rom. 15:25-27. Ralph Martin gives this explanation for the causes of poverty in Jerusalem: "It may be the church had grown in size, and with increasing numbers of widows to care for, the relief fund was overburdened (cf. Acts 6:1-7). We know that elderly Jewish families migrated to the ...Read More

Eternity in Our HeartsRead More

Introduction: A brief overview of the nature and role of angels in the book of Daniel. 3:28 *          angels obey God, being sent to fulfill his purposes *          this 'angel (pre-incarnate Son of God?) is unaffected by fire and has the power to protect humans from fire 4:13 *          these are called 'watchers and 'holy ones *...Read More

God's Church: Its Theological Foundations (the Indicative) 1:1-3:21 A.             Prologue 1:1-2 B.             Praise 1:3-14 C.             Prayer 1:15-23 D.            Our Salvation 2:1-22 1.       ...Read More

"The book of Job," wrote Heinrich Heine, "is the Song of Songs of skepticism, and in it terrifying serpents hiss their eternal question: Why?" Why do we ask "why" upon reading the book of Job? Simply because what happened to Job and what happens to so many of us seems so utterly inconsistent with what we know to be true of God. If God is good and great, as we believe He is, how can He stand idly by and permit a righteous man like Job to suffer so horribly? This is a book...Read More

I.               Introduction: The Apostolic Message - 1:1-4 II.             The First Series of Tests - 1:5-2:27 III.           The Second Series of Tests - 2:28-4:6 A.             The Moral Test (3) - 2:28-3:10a B.  &nb...Read More

  A.            God: the Creator   1.             the cosmos (3:19-20; 8:22-31)   2.             mankind (14:31; 20:12; 22:2; 29:13)   3.             history (8:22)   B.      &...Read More

Perseverance in PrayerRead More

L.             New Covenant Stewardship - 8:1-9:15 1.              the example of the Christians in Macedonia - 8:1-5 2.              the effect on the Christians in Corinth - 8:6-7 3.              the model for Chris...Read More

God's Church: Its Theological Foundations (the Indicative) 1:1-3:21 A.  Prologue 1:1-2 B.  Praise 1:3-14 C.  Prayer 1:15-23 D.            Our Salvation 2:1-22 1.   its individual implications 2:1-10 2.   its corporate implications 2:11-22 E.  The Mystery 3:1-21 Before we examine this prayer in its details, let's survey its overall message. Paul prays for several things...Read More

As we turn our attention to chapter two, I must reiterate an important point: Job's sufferings are not the result of Job's sins. It should be noted, however, that not everyone agrees with this. For example, Frederick K. C. Price, a popular author and spokesman for the Word of Faith / Prosperity gospel, insists that Job suffered because he sinned. It was Job, says Price, not God, who lowered the hedge around himself (1:10). "As long as Job walked in faith, the wall --- th...Read More

Worship and WealthRead More

I.               Introduction: The Apostolic Message - 1:1-4 II.             The First Series of Tests - 1:5-2:27 III.           The Second Series of Tests - 2:28-4:6 A.             The Moral Test (3) - 2:28-3:10a B.  &nb...Read More

“Pride is the worst viper that is in the heart; it is the first sin that ever entered into the universe, and it lies lowest of all in the foundation of the whole building of sin, and is the most secret, deceitful and unsearchable in its ways of working, of any lusts whatsoever; it is ready to mix with everything; and nothing is so hateful to God, and contrary to the spirit of the Gospel, or of so dangerous consequence; and there is no one sin that does so much let ...Read More

A straight sail from the island of Patmos of some 60 miles brings one to the port of Ephesus at the mouth of the river Cayster. Traveling up coast some 35 miles almost due north of Ephesus is the city of Smyrna (population @ 100,000). It is the only one of the 7 cities still in existence today: modern Izmir in western Turkey.   Smyrna was a proud and beautiful city and regarded itself as the “pride of Asia.” An inscription on coins describes the city ...Read More

M.           Paul's Defense of his Apostolic Authority - 10:1-13:14 1.              obedience and discipline - 10:1-6 a.              appeal - vv. 1-2 1)             prelude - v. 1 Here Paul is responding to criticisms (1) of his p...Read More

Council for the ConfusedRead More

Chapters 11-12 contain a vision communicated to Daniel by the angel Gabriel (11:2-12:3) as well as the latter's final instructions to him (12:4-13). The best way to proceed through the difficult 11th chapter is by reading the text with appropriate identifications of the principal figures involved. All are agreed that chapter 11 begins with a reference to the Persian kings who followed Cyrus, extends through Alexander the Great and his successors, and then provides a deta...Read More

In his book, Disappointment with God, Phillip Yancey tells the story of Richard, whose struggles in life and the confusion they produced are not as uncommon as we might think. Richard was converted to Christ while in college. Not long after that, his parents announced they were getting a divorce. Notwithstanding Richard's fervent prayers for the preservation of their marriage, they split. This was his first experience of feeling let down by God. Every decision he made i...Read More

I.               Introduction: The Apostolic Message - 1:1-4 II.             The First Series of Tests - 1:5-2:27 III.           The Second Series of Tests - 2:28-4:6 IV.          The Third Series of Tests - 4:7-5:17 Stott summarizes the thrust o...Read More

Each Greek verb has five essential elements: Person, Number, Tense, Mood, Voice. Here we will focus only on the more important issues relating to the latter three.   A.        Tense   In Greek, unlike English, tense primarily portrays the kind of action from the viewpoint of the author, not the time of action. Only the future tense in Greek is concerned primarily with time. When we talk about the time of action, we mean ac...Read More

Proverbs 17:12 issues this warning: "Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly!" This being the case, we would do well to identify the fool and his characteristics.   A.            The Naive Person   This is the simpleton, the least harmful of the three categories of the "foolish" person described in Proverbs. These are the "Charlie Brown's" of the world. They are marked ...Read More

The Golde Rule and the Golden GateRead More

If the Ephesian church was guilty of elevating truth above love, the church at Pergamum had elevated love above truth. Their commitment to love and tolerance had apparently degenerated into a weak sentimentality that threatened the theological purity of the church.   Pergamum, with a population of @ 190,000, was about 65 miles due north of Smyrna and exceeded its southern neighbor in love for and loyalty to the emperor. Pergamum was the capital city of the Roman ...Read More

M.           Paul's Defense of his Apostolic Authority - 10:1-13:14 1.              Obedience and Discipline - 10:1-6 2.              Personal Obedience and Apostolic Commission - 10:7-18 3.              An Appeal for Acceptanc...Read More

Apocalyptic and the Literary Genre of DanielRead More

A.  Walking worthy of our calling 4:1-5:21   1. in unity 4:1-16 2.  in holiness 4:17-32 Following his emphasis on both the unity and diversity within the body of Christ and how the many gifts of the Spirit serve each end, Paul now turns to describe the moral features of a life that is worthy of the calling with which we have been called. He will first lay out the foundation for such a life (vv. 17-24) and then its many features (vv. 25-32). a.  i...Read More

All of us join in affirming both the goodness and greatness of God. But that does not mean we are able to explain everything that our good and great God either causes or permits. Whether it is a terrorist bomb that destroys innocent human life or the swindling of the elderly or the diagnosis of cancer in a single mom, much in our world is beyond our ability to understand. One author put it this way: "Unfairness is no easier for us to swallow today than it was for Job th...Read More

The Perils of Reading ProvidenceRead More

It wasn’t until the year 2000, when I joined an Anglican church in Wheaton, Illinois, that I was exposed on a consistent basis to the public reading of Scripture. In the churches where I had formerly been a member or had served on the pastoral staff (Southern Baptist, independent Bible church, Vineyard), the only biblical text read aloud was the one on which the sermon was based. Not being accustomed to anything remotely liturgical, it took some getting used to. B...Read More

I.               Introduction: The Apostolic Message - 1:1-4 II.             The First Series of Tests - 1:5-2:27 III.           The Second Series of Tests - 2:28-4:6 IV.          The Third Series of Tests - 4:7-5:17 A.    &nb...Read More

It is both the privilege and responsibility of every Christian to interpret the Bible for himself/herself. This principle of private interpretation, based on the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, was articulated by Martin Luther in the 16th century. The response of the Roman Catholic Church was as follows: "To check unbridled spirits it [the Council of Trent] decrees that no one, relying on his own judgment shall in matters of faith and morals pertaining to t...Read More

Words (speech) in the book of ProverbsRead More

IV.          God's Purpose with Israel - 9:1-11:36 V.            God's Principles for Living - 12:1-15:13   A.            The Christian and Life - 12:1-21 B.            The Christian and Law - 13:1-14 C.        &nbs...Read More

Hypocricy and False ProphetsRead More

Thyatira was the least known, least remarkable, and least important of the seven cities to receive a letter from the Lord. Yet the letter addressed to it is the longest and most difficult to interpret. The obscurity of the letter and the enigmatic character of certain words and phrases are largely due to the fact that background information on the history of Thyatira, specifically the cultural conditions and circumstances in the first century, is almost wholly lacking. I...Read More

M.           Paul's Defense of his Apostolic Authority - 10:1-13:14 1.              Obedience and Discipline - 10:1-6 2.              Personal Obedience and Apostolic Commission - 10:7-18 3.              An Appeal for Acceptanc...Read More

II.             God's Church: its Practical Responsibilities (the Imperative) 4:1-6:20 A.             Walking Worthy 4:1-5:21 1.              in unity 4:1-16 a.              unity of being 4:1-6 b.    ...Read More

Bildad's First Speech (Job 8) A.            Bildad proclaims God's justice - 8:1-7 By referring to Job's words as a "blustering wind" (v. 2), Bildad is not mocking them for their emptiness but is acknowledging them to be powerfully persuasive and devastating to his opponent's arguments. "Your words," Job, "are like a powerful tornado, threatening to uproot and destroy cherished beliefs about God and the moral order...Read More

Bibliography for the study of the book of DanielRead More

The Conclision of the MatterRead More